Paris Tattoo Art Fest

Published: 01 November, 2008 - Featured in Skin Deep 166, November, 2008

With such wonderful attraction as the “Seine”, the “Louvre” and the “Eiffel Tower”, the “Moulin rouge” and the “Arc de Triomphe”, Paris attracts over thirty million visitors every year, all coming to sample the ‘Parisian’ lifestyle.

Included in this impressive number was a huge volume of tattoo tourists, all coming to the French capital for the second Tattoo Art Fest, which was held over the weekend of the 4th-6th July in the Floral Garden of the Vincennes Castle.

The Castle is a perfect setting for a tattoo art festival, smack in the middle of the Vincennes Forest with the building lying in resplendent natural light amid dense and lush vegetation.

Paris now has a reputation of being as big as Milan, New York, Berlin or London, with the visitors all having the benefits of seeing the top international tattooists working over the weekend.

As the doors opened on the Friday the crowds slowly built up with many of the tattooists getting down to business of tattooing.

Over six thousand people came through the doors of the Floral Garden, which was very good considering there were many other events going on that weekend; including the ‘Solidays’ event that is France’s main charity that helps folk with AIDS and has a regular attendance of over one hundred thousand.

“Tattoo Art Fest” is organized by Roberto Dardini, who is the manager of the tattoo shop “Art Corpus” in Paris, in collaboration with Laurent from the association “Les Gens Normaux Prod” with the idea of creating a convention slightly different from those that come before it.

There were many great names of the international tattooists present to share their art with the public, and about sixty stands with 120 tattooists with half of the artists being French and the other half all coming from the four corners of the globe: Pedro Alvarez/Mexico, Georges Bardadim/Russia, Nikko/USA, Alex de Pase/Italy, La Boucherie Moderne/Belgium, Stéphane Chaudesaigues/France, Boog & Liorcifer /USA, and not to forget Horitoshi Family from Japan and many more happy to meet up again in a place of great atmosphere.

Horitoshi is a tattooist in Tokyo and for forty years has been one of the more famous Japanese Masters of “Irezumi” traditional tattooing. First of the big names in Japan, he has taught about 20 pupils so far. At 62 years old, he now sends his pupils to represent him and Roberto does not disappoint the “Tattoo Art Fest” crowd.

Luckily the first Paris convention went well and as such many of the top tattooists were more than happy to come back for another year.

It also helped that Roberto gave all the working artists their booths for free and this was a good incentive to get the top named artists attending and created a calm, friendly and laid-back atmosphere to the proceeding.

The artists were divided into three big rooms, all with large picture windows offering lots of natural light by which the artists could work.

At the age of 21, Roberto got his first tattoo and as for so many people, the departure of a great adventure began and the desire to dedicate his life to the tattoo by deciding to make it his occupation. He started tattooing at 28 years old as an amateur and learnt the profession by watching and working alongside a tattooist. With his years of experience, Roberto thinks that the modern professionals are less impassioned than the old guys and because of this some of the new tattooists seem to be only in the game for the money, which is a bad attitude to have.

Luckily there will always be people like Roberto and Laurent and all the attending artists at Paris to keep the tradition and passion alive.

An important part of all tattoo conventions are the tattoo contests. This year the host was Pascal Tourain, a famous actor and comedian. “The Tattooed Man” acts as Honest Mister, the giant guy with his sense of humour who wears nothing more than a bow tie on his naked chest, revealing his wonderful tattoos that cover his entire body and celebrates the characters of freak show tattoos of yesteryear. This year the categories were limited to twenty-five people and each entrant had to pay two Euros for the privilege. I know this is commonplace in the States but it seems to be creeping in over here too.

As of last year Paris show host the “Best of Bad” rewarding the ugliest tattoo. It is not to disparage the tattooists or to mention their name but simply to have fun and was also rewarded by a prize. People enter who had sufficient humour to make fun of themselves and the goal is to have fun of these unpleasant tattoos and to say: “Look, I have a tattoo uglier than yours”. No one knows the name of the artist, as it isn’t the goal. The idea is not to take it too seriously and to have some fun.

Over the weekend there was a graffiti wall of 30 meters in length and was painted by various artists tattooists, which was then cut out and sold to the highest bidder. There was also a collection of 23 skateboards decorated by various artists and presented by Christophe.

The professionals of “Low Rider” presented the last customized “West Coast” cars and these made for a good opportunity to be photographed in a car “West Lowrider style”.

This year the theme of “Tattoo Art Fest” was “tattooing in urban environment” from where the choice of the topics such as: Graffiti, American cars, and handmade bicycles so tattooing also has the right to be regarded as an art.

Another personality at the convention was Lorrie Ann, who came from Salt Lake City, a model who works is in pin-up, fetish, glamour, fashion, and lingerie modeling. She helped Pascal Tourain to hand out the trophies for the tattoo contest.

In February 2008 France started off with a new set of regulations regarding tattoos and piercings.

All artists working in France must be classed as ‘professionals’. These new laws have been signed by the French Prime Minister that state all artists working in these fields must be trained by authorised people and that piercings cannot be carried out on minors without written consent of their parents.

Also that all tattooing equipment must either be single use or sterilised before each tattoo and that the clinical waste gets disposed of properly. All tattoo ink must adhere to certain regulations. Also all tattooists must keep documentation about the tattoos they do and their clients. Forgive me but surely any tattooist worth their salt would be doing this anyway? Sounds like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs.

Hungry and thirsty tattoo fans had two bars and two restaurants, including one vegetarian, to satisfy their needs.

Ultimately passion, user-friendliness and respect were the key words of this Tattoo Art Fest, to keep the tattooing industry alive.

So as the live music contiued to play long into the morning, many were already paitently waiting for the Tattoo Art Fest 2009 and judging by this year’s show, it will only be better again. Roll on 2009!

All details and information on Internet site:


Text and Photgraphy: Daniel Pissondes


Skin Deep 166 1 November 2008 166