Wim Delvoye: Tattooing Pigs or the Art of Provocation
Delvoye’s equally controversial project was his tattooed pigs. Delvoye started tattooing the skin of dead pigs in the early 1990s, but it was not until 1997 that the artist began to use live pigs as a canvas. In 2004, he bought a farm in a little village near Beijing where he systematically elaborated the artistic concept for his Art Farm. There, the pigs grow up while a team of specialists looks after them. Assistants, veterinarians, and, of course, Delvoye himself, sedate the piglets, shave their skin, tattoo them, keep the wounds clean and their skin properly moisturised. In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde,Delvoye described his concept as follows: ‘I show the world works of art that are so alive, they have to be vaccinated…It lives, it moves, it will die. Everything is real.’
The tattoos themselves are based on Delavoye’s drawings, most of which refer to Western iconography. From popular biker symbols such as hearts and skulls, to Disney princesses, the Louis Vuitton monogram and religious images, Delvoye ‘mixes antagonist elements in order to create an impact and make people feel uncomfortable.’ By placing the motives on pigskin, the artist takes away their message and purpose. They become pure decorum, their only intent is to shock and be beautiful. Delvoye declared in an interview with Claire Naa in 2007: ‘When visitors turn around the pigs, observe it, I am happy. I feel like I‘ve given them back their dignity’.