Barcelona Tattoo Expo 2016

Extras - Issue 22

Barcelona Tattoo Expo doesn't need introductions. This year is taking place for the 19th consecutive year in Barcelona, Spain and it is an institution for the city and of course for the tattoo scene. Pending the festival, HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine spoke with Laura Cubero, organizer of the Barcelona Tattoo Expo. The 19th Barcelona Tattoo Expo will be hosted in Fira de Barcelona and will run from Friday 30th September until Sunday 2nd October 2016. HeartbeatInk is collaborating with Barcelona Tattoo Expo and will be participating at the festival with its own stand.

Interview by Ino Mei.
Photos by John McCaughey, Spot the Spirit / World Tattoo Events.

How did the idea of the tattoo convention initially occurred and how easy or hard was its realization? 

The expo started very modestly. The original place was much smaller than the current venue, which for the 19th edition is now almost 18,000sqm. The idea came from the admiration that we as a minority had for the European tattoo artists we met through our travels. Expos were not very common so we thought why not start our own? We saw no reason not to start an expo in Barcelona city, a place that was always recognised for being one of the most modern and cosmopolitan places in Spain. 


This September the festival is taking place for the nineteenth year. How do you see its progress and metamorphosis throughout the years?

As I mentioned before, the expo has grown both in dimensions and in the number of booths we have. In the first edition of the convention there were only 52 booths, now there are more than 250. Obviously the tattoo world has progressed a lot, particularly in Spain where we are very lucky to have very well known, internationally awarded tattooists. Being able to host the expo at Fira de Barcelona has helped us a lot as it is right in the city centre and is close to transportation, accommodation and many other things. 

What were your goals in the beginning and how have they evolved after all this time?  

I think, and we are very proud of this, that the objectives that we had in the beginning haven’t changed excessively. We started the convention to show outsiders the truth about the tattoo world from a different perspective and to make tattoos and tattooed people more socially acceptable. The beginnings were very hard but I think that we have helped to make tattooing more normalised in society. Mik and Mao, who have both brought a lot of knowledge to the expo, do the selection of tattooists. Since the first editions the quality of the artists has improved to include artists known worldwide, something we are very proud of. 

Barcelona Tattoo Expo is one of the biggest and most prestigious European international tattoo conventions. How do you keep up with the ever-augmenting demands of such an organization?

The selection of artists is based on artistic capabilities. This year we have decided to make more booths due to high demand the demand but obviously it is impossible to make space for every artist who applies. Adding extra booths has allowed us to give more artists a chance and to become known by members of the public. That being said, every year the artists are of a higher and higher level. 

How many tattoo artists will be participating in the 19th Barcelona Tattoo Expo? Which countries do they come from?

There are 250 booths with artists coming from 35 different countries. It’s a great honour for us. 

It appears that this year the exhibition is also focusing on the traditional tattoo techniques. Is it your intention to promote handpoke tattoo to a wider audience?

Following the idea of bringing tattooing into the public eye, we wanted to bring back the traditional style as a more accessible way of being introduced to tattoos. Whether tattoos in different cultures are understood from a religious, spiritual or social point of view the practice of making art on skin still exists as a common denominator. 

Can we talk about a current “revival” of handpoke tattooing?

The tattoo world moves incredibly quickly and more so now as a result of social networks and the way that tattoo artists use them. They are very important and can be extremely beneficial for the profession as any tattooist with great talent can make himself known very quickly. This being said, hand poked tattoos done in the purest traditional style are the essence and the origin of tattooing. Even if the followers are a small part of the public we can’t and won’t forget the origins of this form of art. 

What is BAUM festival and how is it combined with the tattoo convention?

BAUM started as the activity side of the tattoo convention: one way of offering shows to our public to entertain them. Slowly these activities have been playing a bigger and more important part in the expo and have become as much a part of the expo as the tattooing and urban art. We are trying to make all the shows active so you can see the creation of each piece that has been made at the expo. Urban sports are also part of the expo e.g. skateboarding, BMX, in-line skating etc. 

What kind of events will be included in both organizations this year?  

We can define the expo in four different areas; the tattoo area, the bike area where the graffiti artists, painters and traders also have space to show their work directly to the public, the extreme area is where sports and dance are mixed for the younger members of the public and finally, this year for the first time we will have a food truck area where we will celebrate the first food truck indoors.

What sort of collaboration does the Barcelona Tattoo Expo have with the NGO “For a smile I give it all”?

It’s a small ONG charity dedicated to children with physical and mental disabilities from the north east of Brazil. They don’t have a lot of resources and we thought it was a very good way to promote them and to help them to make themselves known. 

Would you characterize Barcelona Tattoo Expo as a family event? Are there infrastructures that facilitate this? Do families actually visit the festival?

Of course, the number of families who come every year is incredible and we always have some activities for the kids. Children must come with a guardian but tickets are free up to the age of 12.

What is the role of the Barcelona Tattoo Expo in the Spanish tattoo scene? 

I believe that Barcelona is a convention that is very well renowned between tattooists. We get hundreds of applications each year from national tattooists. We also believe that it’s a very favourable thing for us that the selection of tattooists is based on their artistic qualities so whoever participates, the standard is very high and this is recognised within the professional area. 

How is the world of tattoo in Spain? Is there a big tattoo scene in your opinion?

Every year more and more; the evolution in the last few years has been incredible. Artists such as Robert Hernandez, Victor Chil, Laura Juan, Debora Cherrys and Toni Donaire, amongst others, are internationally recognised for their artistic quality and we are so proud to have them with us alongside so many other great artists that in so few years have achieved so much.

What tattoo styles are currently the most popular among Spaniards?

Realism is very strong in Spain as well as geometric, dotwork and obviously new school, which is very strong and very popular with our public. 

Are you familiar with the Greek tattoo scene? What is your opinion?

We have been lucky to have lots of Greek artists with us the last few years and in this 19th edition there is no exception. There are tattooists with great talent and we are very happy to have them with us.