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Tattoo culture shifts from rebellion to fashion at Argentine convention

By Ivonne Jeannot Laens   |   March 14, 2013 at 5:31 PM   |   Comments

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (GPI)--Alberto Fornés, 56, calls himself the “Mago Fornés,” or the Magician Fornés, a name now famous in Argentina’s tattoo world. The thin man has become a local celebrity because tattoos cover his entire body.

“Only the bottom of the foot cannot be tattooed because walking erases it,” Fornés says.

Fornés ends his sentence with a wink as if to suggest that he has tattoos in places he cannot display to the public at the Tattoo Show. The ninth annual convention took place this past weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital. It is one of the most important tattoo events in Latin America, according to organizers.

Among his tattoos, Fornés has the date of his first tattoo, Oct. 13, 1992, which was a rose. He continued to add more tattoos to his body as a way to distinguish himself and to achieve fame.

Fornés used to devote his time to performing magic acts in clubs and bars throughout the capital.

“My dream was to be on a magazine as a magician, but they wanted to charge me for being on it,” he says.

Fornés left his career as a magician because he grew tired of working at night. Now, he earns a living as a courier for a cellphone company. And his tattoos have won him the recognition he long sought.

“When I tattooed my face, they came from all over to interview me,” he says. “I have my entire house plastered with more than a hundred articles that they did about me.”

The annual Tattoo Show in Buenos Aires draws tattoo aficionados from around the world and generates funds to send artists across Argentina to raise money for rural schools. Event organizers note a rise in the affluence of attendees as tattoos have become in style. Meanwhile, tattoo artists cite the commercialization of the art and its evolution from a sign of rebellion to a symbol of idols or loved ones. Despite the shift in motivations, tattoos link generations as grandparents and granddaughters bonded over them at the convention.

The ninth annual Tattoo Show took place from March 8 to 10 at Hotel Bauen in downtown Buenos Aires. An estimated 40,000 people attended, says Alejandra Basualdo, head of public relations for Mandinga Tattoo Studio, which has organized the event for the past nine years. The tattoo studio prides itself on being one of the oldest in the city.

The annual show fosters an international exchange of tattoo culture.

This year’s event hosted 93 stands with more than 250 tattoo artists from around the world, including Germany, Italy, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Norway, Uruguay and Peru, Basualdo says.

Tattoo artists displayed new techniques, while attendees sought new tattoos or just watched. The event also featured parades of people in costume, rock concerts, tattoo contests and art displays.

In addition to bringing tattoo culture to Buenos Aires, the show also exports it around the country.

Part of the revenue from tickets sales funds trips for tattoo artists to visit towns in the interior of the country. There, they promote their art by doing tattoos in public areas such as the town plaza. They donate the money they raise to rural schools in these localities.
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