Wim Delvoye is tattooing pigs – Cruel?

Wim Delvoye - Untitled (Koi), 2008 stuffed and tattooed pig, 68x132x46cm
Wim DelvoyeUntitled (Koi), 2008 stuffed and tattooed pig, 68 x 132 x 46 cm

Introduction

It is often said that art is an expression of one’s soul and when the medium of art is an animal’s back, it is rather fascinating. According to Wim Delvoye, the Belgian artist that came up with the tattooed pigs’ concept, an artist does not have to be cruel to animals to make great art pieces out of them; an ideology that is supported by many animal rights groups all across the world. When most people think of chickens, pigs and cows, all they see is food. Many people are oblivious to the fact that animals not only feel pain but their emotional wellbeing could negatively affect the quality of their produce.

Wim Delvoye is no stranger to controversy

Experimenting with different art mediums is nothing new to Wim Delvoye who has been previously involved in art projects where the final creation was gothic style twisted towers made from marble replica. He once tattooed a man’s back to sell it as an art piece; the collector would be entitled to the man’s skin upon his death. The inspiration to tattoo pig’s backs came about as he thought of ways to fascinate people without doing the obvious. With the Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair beckoning at the time, the LV trademark would be the image of choice to be tattooed on the animals’ backs.

Pigs as living, walking canvas

Besides being showcased at the Shanghai fair, the animals were also displayed at galleries although this move was received with mixed reactions. While the idea was to make the pigs a living, walking canvas, it went further beyond their death. The animals would later be stuffed and sold as souvenirs. Even though the animal rights laws were lax in China compared to other places, Wim Delvoye still believes that the pigs which he tattooed when they were smaller received humane treatment and were sedated before the procedure.

Sold for more than $70,000

The cattle fur that has adorned the runway for decades may still have a loyal following but the Chinese seem to have been hypnotized by the pig tattoos. This form of artwork gets even more appealing with the prospect that a single pig could fetch up to $70,000 depending on the design on its skin. From Disney cartoon characters, designers’ house logos and inmate markings; there is no limit to what a tattoo artist can draw on a pig’s back.

Animal rights activists feel that inking an animal is wrong and cruel but what about the pampering and special care it received so as to preserve the art and quality of the skin?

Pigs with traditional tattoos

Wim Delvoye - Donata, 2005, stuffed, tattooed pig, 63x110x50cm
Wim DelvoyeDonata, 2005, stuffed, tattooed pig, 63 x 110 x 50 cm

Wim Delvoye - Donata, 2005, stuffed, tattooed pig, 63x110x50cm
Wim DelvoyeDonata, 2005, stuffed, tattooed pig, 63 x 110 x 50 cm

Wim Delvoye - Sylvie, 2006, stuffed tattooed pig 67.3 by 140.3 by 29.8 cm
Wim DelvoyeSylvie, 2006, stuffed tattooed pig, 67 x 140 x 30 cm

Wim Delvoye - Gloria, 2006, tattooed and stuffed pig, 77 x 160 x 45 cm. (30 3:8 x 63 x 17 ¾ in.)
Wim Delvoye – Gloria, 2006, stuffed tattooed pig, tattooed and stuffed pig, 77 x 160 x 45 cm. (30 3/8 x 63 x 17 ¾ in.)

Wim Delvoye - tattooed pig 1
Wim Delvoye – stuffed tattooed pig

Wim Delvoye - tattooed pig
Wim Delvoye – stuffed tattooed pig

Wim Delvoye - Susan, 2006, tattooed pigskin on polyester mould
Wim Delvoye – Susan, 2006, tattooed pigskin on polyester mould

Pigs with religious tattoos

Wim Delvoye - Jesus, tattooed pigskin on polyester mould, 47x25x70cm
Wim DelvoyeJesus, 2005, stuffed, tattooed pig, 63 x 110 x 50 cm

Wim Delvoye - Rex, 2006, stuffed tattooed pig, 70x113x70cm
Wim DelvoyeRex, 2006, stuffed tattooed pig, 70 x 113 x 70 cm

Wim Delvoye - tattooed pig 2
Wim Delvoye – stuffed tattooed pig

Pigs with Louis Vuitton & Disney tattoos

Wim Delvoye tattooed the Louis Vuttion logo on a pig
Wim Delvoye tattooed the Louis Vuttion logo on a pig

Wim Delvoye - Snow White, 2006
Wim DelvoyeSnow White, 2006

Wim Delvoye - Snow White, 2006, tattooed pig
Wim DelvoyeSnow White, 2006

Wim Delvoye - Arielle, 2006, stuffed tattooed pig, 70x160x40cm
Wim DelvoyeArielle, 2006, stuffed tattooed pig, 70 x 160 x 40 cm

Pig with traditional Japanese tattoo

Wim Delvoye - Untitled (Koi), 2006 Tattooed pig skin on polyester mold Privat collection, New York Photo- Remi Villaggi : Mudam Luxembourg, © Adagp, Paris 2016 : Wim Delvoye
Wim Delvoye – Untitled (Koi), 2006, tattooed pig skin on polyester mold
Photo: Remi Villaggi / Mudam Luxembourg/mudam.lu, © Adagp, Paris 2016 / Wim Delvoye

Photos of Wim Delvoye tattooing pigs

Wim Delvoye tattooing a pig
Wim Delvoye tattooing a pig

Wim Delvoye tattooing a pig
Wim Delvoye tattooing a pig

Wim Delvoye’s ‘Art Farm’ in China

Wim Delvoye's Art Farm, 2003–10, Photo Studio Wim Delvoye, Belgium:ADAGP, Paris & SACK, Seoul 2018
Wim Delvoye’s Art Farm, 2003–10
Photo: Studio Wim Delvoye, Belgium/ADAGP, Paris & SACK, Seoul 2018

Wim Delvoye's Art Farm, 2003
Wim Delvoye’s Art Farm, 2003

Wim Delvoye’s pig farm in China
Wim Delvoye’s pig farm in China

All images by Studio Wim Delvoye/wimdelvoye.be unless otherwise noted.

Video of Wim Delvoye’s ‘Art Farm’ in China

5min 14sec

1min 26sec

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