Tattoo by Horitomo / Photo by Kip Fulbeck

Explore the art of traditional Japanese tattoo, from its roots in ukiyo-e woodblock printing to its place in contemporary society.


Japanese tattoo developed and flourished in Japan alongside ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and the two art forms influenced each other. Yet, despite this shared heritage, Japanese tattoo and ukiyo-e have followed very different trajectories. Ukiyo-e died out with the rise of the printing press but went on to become part of the Japanese art canon, and has continued to be collected, exhibited and appreciated not only in Japan but worldwide. Japanese tattoo, on the other hand, is a living tradition that is still practised today, and contemporary tattoo artists continue to honour centuries-old forms, techniques and aesthetics. However, despite the talent of its practitioners and the richness of this tradition, this is an art form that has been largely overlooked by the contemporary art world. 'Uncovering Japanese Tattoo' brings together an exhibition of Japanese tattoo and an exhibition of ukiyo-e, setting up a dialogue between these two closely related art forms, exploring their shared roots and inspiring us to consider their respective places in contemporary society.

    All events presented by The Japan Foundation, Sydney except Yoshitoshi: One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, which is presented by Art Gallery of NSW, and the 'Japanese Tattoo: Ukiyo-e for the Body' talk, which is co-presented by The Japan Foundation, Sydney and Art Gallery of NSW.