Field Museum’s Tattoo Exhibit – Time Travel Glimpse of Human Creativity

No, Soon, Always

Richard Lariviere, President and CEO of the Field Museum, politely says no to that.

 Jaap Hoogstraten, Director of Exhibitions at the Field Museum will get his first—a small hyena.

Hanky Panky
Hanky Panky

 And Hanky Panky, a name he picked up when he worked as a bouncer in Amsterdam’s Red Light district, joked that he can always eat more to expand his girth and make room for more…

What are they talking about?

They are talking Tattoos- -the subject of the Field Museum’s fun new exhibit that opened last week and now extended to early September.  Hoogstraten won’t have to go far to get his first tattoo, or endure the long wait time that Chicago’s best tattoo artists now require because they are so overbooked. As cool as this exhibit is, cooler still is the tattoo shop you find at the conclusion of the exhibit, offering natural history themed tattoos, like the hyena Hoogstarten chose for his arm.




Field Museum Tattoo Parlor

Tattoo Exhibit History

There are 170 objects in this Tattoo exhibit, most coming from musée de quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris, where it was first held. The Field has added 14 objects from its own collection too.

At the opening, the large team at the Field Museum and beyond that created this exhibit stops for a photo
At the opening, the large team at the Field Museum and beyond that created this exhibit stops for a photo



Walk its halls and you get much to ogle. Make time to read the signs so you can learn the history of this art form—found in so many global cultures over time.

Lariviere’s reluctance to similarly get his first tattoo, though unexplained, has nothing to do with lack of enthusiasm for the exhibit. In fact, he was in Paris and saw this exhibit at the Branly and started a crusade of sorts to get them to export their show to the Field.

Anne, co-curator of original exhibitAnne and Julien who curated the Branly show were also on hand for the opening of the Field’s “Tattoo” show. That curator role grew out of their work as editors of “ their magazine HEY! Modern art & pop culture.

Though most Chicagoans under 30 probably don’t recall, it wasn’t that long ago when tattoos were more fringe subculture, Anne and Julien were among the first to cover tattoos’ emergence as pop art, a harbinger of tattoos becoming a now global fashion statement.

Perhaps with exaggerated modesty they pointed this reviewer to THE MAN of tattoos, Hank Schiffmacher, a.k.a. Hanky Panky.

Modern Tattoo History from Hanky Panky

Hanky Panky, who could give Rod Steiger’s “Illustrated Man” a run for his money, explained how he first got hooked on tattoos, and where its taken him‑literally and figuratively. He says, “I was a photographer and admired the work of Diane Arbus. I liked circuses and traveling. I liked Hunter S. Thompson’s writing too. One of the subjects this got me into was people with tattoos. This was the early 70’s. I started to write and befriend tattoo artists- taking pictures of their art, writing to them, and becoming friends. This got me into what was an international network of tattoo artists and tattoo clubs. That in turn sucked me into collecting everything that has to do with tattoos and in 1974 or 75 I started the tattoo collection on my body..

“With tattoos you should be more impulsive. We don’t need tattoos the way it was required in some cultures to become a man, for example, or other rituals.  You need to find a picture you like…I eat a lot, to make room for new tattoos.

“…We are the poor man’s Rembrandts…”

Hanky Panky said he very much admired the objects that the Field Museum had added to the show. His Amsterdam Tattoo Museum is a must-see for any tattoo fanatic visiting that city.

Hanky Panky and his wife Louise stayed at the Field’s exhibit for a bit, but explained that soon they were on their way to meet fellow tattoo enthusiasts in California.   Louise explained that that ‘s what tattoos do for you—you have friends everywhere.

Field Museum Tattoo Parlor

Field Museum Tattoo


Now through September 4, 2017
9 AM – 5 PM Daily



Field Museum
1400 South Lakeshore Drive



$15 - $22 single basic entry tickets. Many options for other ticket combinations.

Field Museum Tattoo
Tattoo artists in Chiang Mai, copyright Dow Wasiksiri
Amy Munice

About the Author:

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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