For more than 300 years, New York has played a central role in the development of modern tattooing, from its origins in Native American body art to the introduction of the craft by sailors in colonial New York, from the development of a New York style to the three-decade tattoo ban instituted in 1961 and the subsequent underground tattoo culture. This diverse history is explored in Tattooed New York, an exciting exhibition where history and pop culture converge to tell the complex story of a fascinating art form in America’s cultural nucleus.
Among the 250+ elements on view are the New-York Historical Society’s set of 1710 Four Indian Kings prints and one of the earliest recordings (1706) in Western accounts of a pictograph done by a Seneca warrior representing his tattoos and personal signature. Highlights of the exhibition include Thomas Edison’s electric pen and early 20th-century tattoo machinery; dramatic sideshow banners and cabinet cards; a large selection of designs by the Bowery pioneers of modern tattooing, including Sam O'Reilly, Lew Alberts, Bob Wicks, Ed Smith, and Bill Jones; rare photography documenting the tattoo ban years and artwork by mainstream visual artists who tattooed during the ban; and works by some of the finest New York tattoo artists of today. Organized by the New-York Historical Society, this exhibition is curated by Assistant Curator of Exhibitions, Cristian Petru Panaite.
Support provided by
Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Your #TattooedNY Gallery
Tattoos can reveal personal stories, represent shared history and identity, as well as showcase artistry—or sometimes they just are. What's the story behind your ink? Share your tattoos on social media with #TattooedNY, then find them in the gallery below!