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#FNL at the ROM @Toronto

Royal Ontario Museum Outfit

I saw a clipping in the Globe the other day about the newest ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) exhibition. When I saw the word: tattoo, I perked up immediately. Most people (in the past and even in Hong Kong nowadays) associate tattoos with hooligan behaviour and gang activity…  It’s nice to know that it is being understood more as an art form and history.

I decided to go check it out.

After a few clicks on the Internet, I found myself on the landing page for #FNL (#FridayNightLive) at the ROM. At $15 a pop, it really was a bargain especially because you had access to all the exhibits. There would also be live music and local food trucks. I thought to myself: Food and art? I must be dreaming.

The catch though (’cause there’s always a catch): Buy tickets early or spend an hour and a half standing in the cold waiting to enter the premises. I learned that the hard way.

Tattoo exhibit at Royal Ontario Museum
Credit: Royal Ontario Museum and Jake Verzosa

It really wasn’t my fault though. I tried to buy the tickets online, but the website had a JavaScript error, saying my string (string of text) was too long and kept locking me out. I decided to tough it out and just go as is. I imagined there wouldn’t be too many people anyway. I still spent a good part of the afternoon getting dressed up, because this was an art museum event after all. It was my “plebian” version of attending the Met Gala, and doesn’t everyone dress up for that?

Oh, how naive of me.

I spent an hour and a half with this guy I barely knew, making small talk as we waited miserably to get in.

Was it worth it?

Well, in short. The tattoo exhibit was a letdown. I guess it was about expectation management.  What I expected was a movement of tattoo as an art and perception. I wanted to know where it was going and the new styles (neo-traditional) that were slowly getting popular. Maybe a sartorial jab at Pinterest tattoos… What I got was an overview of  the history of tattooing – from Polynesian styles, Chinese styles, Japanese styles, New Zealand styles… And their origins. (Side note: one cool thing was seeing how prison tatts were done. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw just a normal, everyday pen, manipulated into some kind of contraption).

As someone who has spent a large amount of time researching about tattoos and writing about them, it really wasn’t anything new or exciting for me. The thing I did find really cool was the letter from Sailor Jerry to Ed Hardy. This connection was intriguing for me; another thing is: I do appreciate the ROM though for putting this exhibit, recognizing tattoo as something more than just rebellious counterculture. I would recommend this exhibition to people who have little to no knowledge about tattoos – ie. if you’re opening up and telling your (conservative) family about your first tattoo.

The other exhibitions like dinosaurs, body modifications (ie. skull binding), old homewares, and gemstones all had elements that were interesting to me.

Upcoming #FNL events @ The ROM: (remember to buy tickets beforehand!)

May 6: Punchline
May 13: DinoNite
May 20: Fashion
May 27: Asia Forever

Royal Ontario Museum Outfit The Royal Ontario Museum. 100 Queens Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C6. +1 (416)586-8000

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