First there were pop-up nail salons, now pop-up tattoo parlors. Museums are offering more than just a viewing experience for visitors these days, and the latest craze is free customized, wearable art. A slew of additional event programming that caters to a younger crowd has been sweeping museums. In 2011, elaborate nail art manicures were offered at the New Museum for Dzine’s fall 2011 Salon 94 exhibition. This April, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be home to a pop-up tattoo parlor inspired by its current exhibition “Ink and Gold: Art of the Kano,” featuring hand-drawn temporary tattoos by some of Philadelphia’s most sought-after local artists.
The exhibition focuses on the work of the Japanese Kano painters, an influential group of court artists that served Japan’s shoguns in the 15th century. The Kano painters created large-scale paintings, scrolls, foldings screens, sliding doors, and fans in ink and, very often, gold leaf. “Art of the Kano,” on view through May 10, features 120 works and is the first show outside Japan to cover the period extensively.
The pop-up tattoo parlor events held in conjunction with the exhibition will take place each Wednesday throughout the month, during the museum’s Pay What You Wish nights. Each Wednesday artists from a different local shop will offer temporary designs for visitors, and display artwork and flash (basic designs available in tattoo shops for walk-in customs) inspired by “Art of the Kano” in a one-night-only exhibition.
“Many of the works in Ink and Gold are over 400 years old, yet imagery still feels so fresh. It’s been amazing working with local tattooers to highlight that and help visitors draw instant connection to their everyday lives,” said Montana Graboyes, marketing and audience development manager of evening programs for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
On April 1, the museum held its first pop-up parlor, which drew 1,700 visitors and featured work by Seth Mushrush of Baker Street Tattoo. The artists visited the exhibition for inspiration, and completed their final designs in watercolor and gold leaf. Mr. Mushrush told the Observer that he created three design for the exhibition portion: a 22-inch-by-18-inch koi fish, an image of cranes, and a third of a Fu dog, or Chinese guardian lion. While some shops created temporary, stick-on tattoos, Mr. Mushrush and the artists from Baker Street drew designs directly onto visitors with markers, which is one of the first steps an artists takes when setting up a real tattoo in a shop.
“We had sharpie markers and just freehand drew on people. We felt it kept it a lot more true to the tattoo experience to draw right on people,” he said.
“We spent most of the night completely booked. I was drawing scorpion back pieces on 6 year olds, I did a dragon half sleeve on a guy, did a few neck tattoos. It was a lot of fun, and pressure free—we all knew that we didn’t have tattoo and so we could be loose about this.”
Japanese-style tattoos are extremely popular in many shops. It’s a style Mr. Mushrush specializes in, and he estimated that about 60 percent of his work in Japanese-style designs. “Japanese tattooing is all about composition and layout. It fits the body so well, and really lends itself to tattooing because of the graphic quality of the imagery,” he said.
On Wednesday night, Mike Ski and the artists of True Hand Tattoo and Design adorned visitors with their designs. Artists from Eddie’s Chinatown Tattoo will be at the museum of April 15, and Olde City Tattoo will close the month’s programming on April 22 and 29. On the final night, one visitor will be chosen at random to receive a real tattoo, an elaborate Kano-inspired eagle. Ready for the real thing?