Displayed throughout Piazza del Duomo in the Tuscan town of Pietrasanta, ancient marble sculptures aren’t quite what they seem. They were placed there by Italian artist Fabio Viale as part of his Truly exhibition, curated by Enrico Mattei. The statues are no ordinary stone figures though—they’re all “tattooed.”
Viale’s fascination with tattoos began when he met a Russian tattoo artist whose hands were full of “odd” symbols. “I felt really curious, and I asked him to draw a sculpture,” Viale tells My Modern Met. “I like the kind of tattoos that deal with death and life and use ancient symbology.”
Viale doesn’t just hand-paint the surface of his marble sculptures—he uses an ink that infiltrates the stone’s pores, resulting in the color that penetrates all the way through. He challenges the perception of ancient statues by merging the old art form with modern body art. “My goal of tattooing marble is to create a double identity sculpture: tattooing old masterpieces means donating a second life and, in a contemporary way, a new collective image,” he explains. “Today, tattoos could be considered as a suit that everybody may wear, old statues too! Changing ancient statues' life builds a temporal bridge towards universal beauty.”
Although most of the sculptures feature tattoos, the central pieces to Viale’s Truly exhibition are without. Inside the 14th-century church of Sant’Agostino, the Three Graces are positioned to sit on plinths. The three figures represent three women from Ghardaïa, a city in Algeria. They all wear the traditional haik, a white, long garment wrapped around the head and body. The sculptures are intended to provoke questions around the issues of personal and religious freedom.
See more images from Viale’s Truly exhibition, below, plus some behind the scenes shots. If you want to know more about this artist’s work, make sure to visit his website.