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Tatoueurs Tatoues

Tatoueurs Tatoués

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Why you will love it?

Tattoos are now an undeniable form of art and have found their place in the heart of the Musée du Quai Branly. Exposed above the permanent exhibition of primitive arts, 300 objects retrace the history of tattoos, an art in constant movement, between rebellion and conformism, tradition and art, local or global and shared between civilizations and continents. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

37 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris
Line 6 - Bir Hakeim Line 8 - Ecole Militaire Line 9 - Iéna / Alma Marceau
Line C - Pont de l'Alma

Wednesday : Closed Wednesday : Closed
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Monday : Closed Tuesday : Closed Wednesday : Closed Thursday : Closed Friday : Closed Saturday : Closed Sunday : Closed Monday : Closed Tuesday : Closed Wednesday : Closed Thursday : Closed Friday : Closed Saturday : Closed Sunday : Closed

Our Insiders' Article


The Tatoueurs Tatoués exhibition ("Tattooists Tattooed") replaces this form of art in its historical, geographical and religious context. Whether it is for ritual or exclusion, punishment or pride, the indelible ink injected in the flesh has truly become a form of art. The exhibition tells the story of how the art of tattoos evolved through time and has served as a means to worship, deify, marginalize, heal or magnify. Tattoos have also been a way to exteriorize one’s inner thoughts or symbolize one’s membership to a specific group.

Parisianist Fun Fact: The word “tattoo” comes from a Polynesian word meaning “to mark” or “to make an incision”, and was brought to the west in the 18th century.


The Musée du Quai Branly is a constant flow of inter culture dialogues where primitive arts has been raised to the level of that of the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. It has chosen the best of the world of tattoos and amidst beautiful pictures are 13 reproductions of human body parts that have been tattooed specifically for this exhibition by critically acclaimed tattoo artists such as Jack Rudy and Tin-Tin. In a few steps, visitors drift away from the primitive arts to encounter the fascinating world of tattoos. “Nothing is more constant than change”, a quote by Freud that Anne and Julien, the creators of the magazine Hey! and curators of the exhibition (seconded by TinTin himself) like to mention. In a fantastic stage design, they take us to the European prisoners, the Japanese firemen, the American sideshows and the New Zealand Maori tribe. 


After several explanatory boards, you will enter the tunnel of time and witness the power and beauty of tattoos. From therapeutic purposes during the Chalcolithic age (3500 BC), you will see how the use of tattoos has changed through time: social usage during the Antiquity or religious purposes in the 15th century with all the different pilgrimages and crusades done during the Middle Ages.

Geography - Europe

The tunnel of time suddenly becomes a geographic tunnel, with Europe as a starting point, where the art of tattoos was introduced by James Cook’s sailors in the 18th century, who had gotten their tattoos in far away exotic places. But tattoos remained a custom used by marginal people, be it sailors, street wandered, soldiers or prisoners… Some of these marginal tattoos are beautifully shown on picture and video at the Musée du Quai Branly. In Europe, tattoos originally ornated the skins of criminals, outcasts or prostitutes. After embellishing the stories of the sailors, tattoos started penetrating in the prison world, where they were considered as a repeat offence source by criminologists…

Geography - USA

In the United States, instead of becoming a degrading factor, the myth of the man tattooed by exotic aboriginals attracted huge crowds on sideshows. Amidst fire-eaters and sword swallowers, the tattooed man became a fun to watch freak. But slowly, the tattoo artist was recognized as a real professional: Charlie Wagner, the legendary tattoo artist that inked the skins of Bonnie and Clyde, revolutionized the world of tattoos and embellished the bodies of women. Soon, the tattoo became a very common thing in the US.

Geography - Japan

The next step takes the visitors to Japan and its Irezumi (“ink introduction”). Already found in the northern tribes of the Empire of the rising sun, the art of tattoos is resurrected in the 18th century by firemen, and later on used by the Kabuki artists, an ancestral form of traditional Japanese theater and spreads throughout different ranks of the population. Yakuza’s, the famous Japanese mafia, have fascinated many people around the world with their abstract motifs that adapt to the body’s morphology.

Geography - Asia

It’s time to take a leap to New Zealand and admire the details of the moko, the tribal tattoos the chiefs and glorious warriors have on their faces and superbly photographed and exposed in the Musée du Quai Branly. The different cultures of that region intertwine in the hall of the museum, with pictures or silicon reproductions of tattoos from Polynesia, Borneo, the Philippines… From the punitive Chinese tattoo to the divine and sacred Thai tattoo, the mix of gods and sacred animals has recently been popularized by international stars such as Angelina Jolie.


In our modern world, the deviant tattoo is very common, but the tattoos of today are living a new artistic life thanks to new technologies. Today in France, according to a recent poll, 1 out of 6 people have a tattoo (10% in the USA). From local traditions, we have moved to a global trend, ascertaining that the art of tattoos is now a common heritage for a great majority of the world today. 

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