With more and more international conventions staking their claim as the “one to be seen at”, Tattoo Art Fest in Paris continues to grow and offer more variation year after year. This year was no exception – and from Paris, we would expect no less.
World renowned for its fabulous museums, breathtaking monuments and artistic lifestyle, Paris has added a new string to its cultural bow in recent years: the Tattoo Art Fest.
Just a few years ago the show managers had many problems finding a place to organise the convention: “In 2007, for the first show, when I asked to see a room, the guys asked me strange questions. Today, it is they who come to see me to show places” says Laurent Agneessens, the co-organiser of the tattoo convention. It is important to note that the show has grown successfully year after year since then and without any help or subsidy from the City Hall of Paris or the Ministry of Culture, which had snubbed Tattoo Art Fest at its inception.
In just three years, Tattoo Art Fest, has taken its show to the topmost level of the international convention scene by keeping the quality of its artists noticeably high. Everyone from top tattoo professionals to aspiring artists, tattoo admirers and collectors met at the fourth Parisian Tattoo Art Fest, an event which has firmly stamped its own mark on the convention scene. Taking place over six days from 14th-19th September, with tattooing taking place over the final three days, this year saw a new venue for the Tattoo Art Fest as well as more music and cultural events than ever before.
The new space, ‘Halle Freyssinet’ in the 13th district of Paris, is part of the industrial architectural heritage of the old city of Paris and has been restored in a new urban style with enormous open spaces, art deco resonances and impressive 16 metre high ceilings – perfect for a full house of tattoo enthusiasts. Ideally situated between two subway stations and close to the Gare d’Austerlitz mainline station, this was quite a change of venue from previous years, when the convention had been held in the Floral Garden at the Chateau de Vincennes. A good change though: much more central, accessible and… well… just better!
This year’s event was again organised by Sam Shocker and assisted by Laurent Agneessens, Manager of the “Gens Normaux Production” artistic event team. Sam Shocker is well known on the tattoo scene, having spearheaded the Rennes tattoo convention a few years ago in Brittany as well as organising 2010’s Nantes tattoo convention. His knowledge of the industry is really reflected in the quality of the event.
During the three days, over 150 international artists tattooed non-stop. From the get-go on Friday afternoon, an enormous number of hopefuls joined waiting lists and the artists’ appointment diaries were nothing if not full. Artists had travelled from far and wide to attend: News-Zealand, Mexico, Russia, Slovakia, Italy, Greece and even the US. Judging from the look of awe on visitors’ faces, they were totally immersed in the world of tattooing, watching the artists they had come to see and discovering the talent of those they hadn’t yet come across.
Demographically, the artists were a diverse bunch, with an average age anywhere between twenty five and forty years old. Many of them started their careers as graphic designers, painters, art students or graffiti taggers. It was a pleasure to see such a variety of styles and personalities on display – as well as to see the usual myths surrounding tattoo artists dispelled. The muscle men with noisy motorcycles and naval tattoos have moved over to make room for the new generation of international tattoo stars!
Among this new generation are the female artists that have had a meteoric rise in Europe. It was particularly good to see some French talent on show such as Lea Nahon (Leanka Lucky Electric), Morgane (Sour & Sweet Tattoo), Sissou (Insolit Tattoo) and Stephanie (David Tattoo Shop).
Walking around the stands, the atmosphere was relaxed and yet somehow glamorous, allowing every tattoo artist the opportunity to show off his catalogue of work. As for the customers at the stands, there were many regulars who wore their loyalty on their bodies, some entirely covered with tattoos. Elsewhere, tattoo ‘virgins’ could be seen choosing fairly discreet designs for their first time.
We chose to visit this year’s Tattoo Art Fest as a family and this is something we are very proud of. In fact, quite a few tattoo artists brought their children to the festival – they patiently watched Mum or Dad making small holes in the skin of the ‘brave customers’.
And these really are brave people. Beyond the pain, those getting inked don’t hesitate to take off their tops or drop their pants in front of the passers-by huddled round the stands who are desperate not to miss any of the show. We also noticed with mild amusement that there is more of a crowd when an artist is tattooing a woman than a guy. In particular when she has a pleasant physical appearance, and when the tattoo is under the navel or the just over the breast.
Some artists attracted a huge amount of interest and were busy all day long, while others seemed less fortunate. Among the busiest, were the Belgians La Boucherie Moderne tattoo shop or the Parisians de Migoii, who rented a whole aisle. Equally, Dimitri HK, tattooer from Saint-Germain en Laye was heavily occupied with pricking a portrait of Jacques Chirac’s wife, Bernadette, on a customer’s calf. Go figure...
Further down the hall, a New Zealander works at hand tapping a customer. Judging from the customer’s face, this ancient method of tattooing is not necessarily the least painful. Ignoring the pain, the atmosphere is cool good-natured and relaxed. Outside, several BMX ramps had been installed and kids enjoyed the opportunity to practice their skills in front of the visitors who were taking the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine, compare their tattoos and be photographed by the numerous amateur photographers.
Passion, conviviality and respect were the magic words this year, as once more, TAF asserted itself as one of the most important events in the tattoo calendar.