Tim Steiner sees himself as nothing but a frame that holds a canvas, in his case that would be his back.
Ten years ago, this tattoo parlour manager volunteered to offer his back as a canvas for the controversial Belgian artist Wim Delvoye.
Over 40 hours, Delvoye turned Tim’s back into a work of art. He tattooed it with an elaborate design — a haloed Madonna, roses, fish, children playing amongst lotus flowers and even a Mexican-style skull
Delvoye called the artwork…TIM
And in 2008, Delvoye sold TIM (the artwork, not the man) to an art collector called Rik Reinking for 150,000 euros (NZ$222,000). Tim (the man) got one-third of the amount.
And if you are wondering how Reinking has displayed this particular artwork, don’t bother. He has it all sorted out. In fact, he believes in sharing his art with the public. So, he lets Tim (the man), exhibit Tim (the artwork) in art galleries.
Currently, he’s been showing in a gallery for more than a year. Tim removes his shirt and sits quietly for five hours a day, six days a week. People think he is a sculpture. And when they see him moving or discover that the artwork is a live thing, it gives them the loosies and Tim, his chuckles.
Tim is contracted to exhibit his back till he dies. And according to the contract, when he dies, Tim has agreed to have his back skinned, treated, framed and hung in Reinking’s art collection — forever.
Ok, take a deep breath folks. You see, art means different things to different people. Many find this gruesome. But Tim does not.
“My skin belongs to Rik Reinking now,” he says. “My back is the canvas, I am the temporary frame,” says 40-year-old Tim in an interview with the BBC
Tim does not consider the whole concept gruesome. “Gruesome, is relative,” he says. His only concern is that when the time comes, he wants the skin to be framed nicely. He says, “If it’s framed nicely and looks good, I think it’s not such a bad idea.”
Tim considers tattoos as a “great art form. Tattooers are incredible artists who’ve never actually been accepted in the contemporary art world. Painting on canvas is one thing, painting on skin with needles is a whole other story,” he says. And Tim the artwork and Tim the man are together a unique story indeed.