You'd think that after all that modern artist have done, nothing would be shocking anymore. After all, we've had Jeff Koons make statues of celebrities giving birth and Damien Hirst slicing up sharks. But one art controversy that has periodically surfaced and resurfaced since the early 1990s is the work of Belgian artist Wim Delvoye and his tattooed pigs.
Delvoye first began tattooing pigs in his native Belgium around 1992, working at the time on the skins of dead pigs. By 1997, he decided to explore the concept further. Thinking of the pigs as living "piggy banks," that is to say as investments, he began to tattoo designs on live pigs. The animals are sedated first, and then shaved and tattooed much as a living human would be to receive a tattoo.
In 2004, Delvoye rented a farm in China, where he wouldn't be hindered by prohibitive animal welfare laws and established his Art Farm project. Pigs are tattooed when they are young and the designs change and grow as the pig grows. Interested art buyers can purchase a pig, although Delvoye has noted that none of them have actually taken their pigs home to live with them. Some buyers have waited until the pigs dies of old age to have the skins turned into art, but others have preferred that the pigs be slaughtered and the skin stretched and framed. Delvoye has also exhibited some of the tattooed pigs as fully stuffed and taxidermied statues, sitting as he puts it "like a stone lion outside a Chinese restaurant." (ArtAsiaPacific, pp. 154-159, 30 September 2007)
In September of 2008, Delvoye was scheduled to have eight of his pigs appear as part of the Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair, but shortly before the exhibition was set to open, officials decided the pigs, tattooed with Disney designs and the Louis Vuitton logo, were in poor taste and the Art Farm exhibit was removed from the event. Delvoye was somewhat disappointed as he had interested buyers coming to China from Europe. The tattooed porcines can fetch as much as £100,00 (approx. $161,560 USD).
You can see this controversial tattoo art for yourself on Wim Delyove's web site.