The South Street Seaport Museum launched a new exhibition, The Original Gus Wagner: The Maritime Roots of Modern Tattoo, on January 29th.
The exhibition explores the life and work of Augustus “Gus” Wagner, who almost singlehandedly invented the art, while traveling the world as a merchant mariner from 1898-1902. Upon his return to the United States, Wagner was both adorned by subdermal ink, and ready to make his imprint on others.
The exhibition will show original and reproduced artifacts from the Seaport Museum’s Alan Govenar and Kaleta Doolin Tattoo Collection, such as tattooing tools, a selection of tattoo flashes (drawings and sketches, on recycled paper-based materials, displaying variations of tattoo designs) and a selection of pages from the artist’s scrapbook-a 400-page book composed of press clippings, postcards, business cards, sketches, and photographs, that relate to his introduction to tattooing as a sailor.
The Original Gus Wagner: The Maritime Roots of Modern Tattoo also recalls hand tattoo techniques, and makes the case for the importance of researching, documenting, and preserving tattoo collections in museums and research institutes.
The exhibition is included with Museum admission. For non-members, admission is priced at $12 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and $6 for children ages two through 17. Tickets can be purchased online at southstreetseaportmuseum.org/ or in person at 12 Fulton Street. The show runs through June 4.