The tatooed back of Tim Steiner from Zurich by artist Wim Delvoye
16th February 2017 The MALESTROM

The man who sold his skin in the name of art

Anyone who has tattoos adorning their body generally got them done because they love the way they look on skin. By getting inked you are essentially using your body as a fleshy canvas to be turned into a kind of  work of art, unless of course you got yours after a night out in Ibiza and are preparing to pitch up on Tattoo Fixers. But would you be prepared to literally sell your skin to become a gallery exhibit while alive and more disturbingly after death? Yea us neither.

Well one man has done just this, Tim Steiner from Zurich, nearly a decade ago he volunteered to be the living canvas for a detailed tattoo by controversial Belgian artist Wim Delvoye. Delvoye is renowned as an agent provocateur in the contemporary art world, chiefly becoming infamous for inking designs such as Disney and Louis Vuitton motifs onto live pigs (The MALESTROM does not condone this). At the least these portraited porkers are allowed to come to the end of their days by natural causes before going off to art dealers who buy their skin

Tim Steiner from Zurich sits in mud with his back to camera stroking a pig for exhibition Art Farm in Yang Zhen

Tim, 2006-2008, tattooed skin, lifesize, Wim Delvoye, Art Farm, Yang Zhen (Beijing)

The design on Steiner, that took 40 hours in the studio, shows a Madonna figure topped with a Mexican style skull amid what are seemingly bats & swallows amongst other designs. German art collector Rik Reinking bought the ‘work’ TIM in 2008 for the sum of €150,000 (£130,000) of which Tim got a third. And with that part of the money come some slightly gruesome conditions. He has to exhibit the work in art galleries a minimum of three times a year (so far so fair), but he’s also agreed to be skinned after his death, with his back tat becoming part of Mr Reinking’s personal collection … lovely.

Tim, 2006-2008, tattooed skin, lifesize, Wim Delvoye 2010, MONA, Hobart (AUS)

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but Tim remains pretty chilled about the whole ordeal,

“My skin belongs to Rik Reinking now … My back is the canvas, I am the temporary frame.”

Of course you have to say each to their own, but you wouldn’t catch us being hung up in the Tate Modern for 43 grand. Although these desperate times we live in often call for desperate measures.

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