Tattoos may be more socially acceptable than they once were, but a nice sleeve hasn’t yet become a marker of taste and refinement quite like, say, a collection of art on your wall. Italian tattoo artist Marco Manzo has made it his mission to fully bring body art into the world of fine art and high fashion. His delicate blackwork tattoos, which draw on Venetian lace and Victorian jewelry for their intricate patterns, make that goal seem perfectly reasonable. Lately, he and his wife, Francesca Boni, who designs the intricate details of each piece, have been inking more geometric designs for men, but they are best known for their lacy, exquisitely feminine ones.
For the most part, the large-scale designs are created with the female form in mind. They spread across shoulder blades, unfurl sensually under clavicles, stylishly snake down legs, and call attention to curves. It’s no wonder that Manzo’s work has found an audience in the art and fashion worlds, and amongst celebrities like actress and director Asia Argento. Last year, he curated and art directed the Tattoo Forever exhibit at MACRO, Rome’s museum of contemporary art, which featured examples of his work alongside those of other celebrated contemporary tattoo artists. According to Manzo, successes like this represent the realization of a dream. “One of the results I wanted has always been to have the tattoo accepted in such ‘raised eyebrow’ environments as something fine, fancy, elegant and sophisticated,” he writes in an email to Creators.
The previous year, he made his fashion week debut with an exhibition titled Tattoo d’Haute Couture at Rome’s Museum MAXXI, where his clients appeared as a kind of living installation. Though he and Boni are undoubtedly artists, it is more tempting to compare what the husband and wife team do to couture. The time and skill that goes into tattoo art like theirs is equal to that of any couturier. Manzo may spend 50 to 60 hours inking a back piece. Beforehand, the couple can spend days working out the placement and design of that tattoo with a customer. “It’s like a tailored suit,” the artisanal inker writes. “You have to modify until you reach perfection.” One upside of Manzo’s bespoke creations? It’s guaranteed to last longer than a suit.