Tattoo artist to stars like Sting, Robert Downey Jr, and Jennifer Aniston, Scott Campbell is a name you might have heard before. An unusual level of public acclaim for an inker without his own television show. And he’s aware of that too. It’s a field where one’s best art is seen by a select few and almost never signed. Only people who are already tattoo devotees will ever ask “who did your ink?” or anything like it.
In a statement on this strange nature of visibility in his career is his current art installation, Whole Glory, at Milk Gallery in Manhattan where he is artist in residence. The whole of the installation is this:
There is a 50-foot long painting by Campbell, with a hole in the center, at about shoulder height for a seated adult. In front of the whole is a chair. Particularly brave members of the audience are invited to put their names into an in-person lottery. Drawings are twice a day, morning and afternoon, and the winner’s prize to put their arm into that hole and stay there for 90 minutes.
When they pull it out, they will have a free tattoo, an original Scott Campbell. A real, honest tattoo, the permanent kind. (He usually pulls $1,000 for the first hour of any piece, and $200 per hour after that.)
The catch? They don’t get to choose what the art will be, or where, and they don’t get to see it until it’s done.
Campbell says he’ll switch up between pulling from his own portfolio and making up designs on the spot, reacting to each stranger. He compares the choosing process to palm-reading, and hopes that, whatever tattoo each individual ends up with, that the most important thing about it to them will be the story they’ll earn to tell about blind trust.