Belgian artist Wim Delvoye attained fame and controversy by tattooing fine-art pieces on pigs; when retired tattoo parlor manager Tim Steiner volunteered his skin for a Delvoye piece, the result was purchased by a German art collector called Rik Reinking for €130,000 (Steiner got a third of that). Steiner has agreed to be flayed after his death, with his skin stretched, cured and framed for Reinking's collection.
As he awaits his death and skinning, Steiner passes the time sitting half-naked in art galleries (as is stipulated in the purchase contract), where Delvoye fans come to see the work, which is called TIM.
As part of his contract, Steiner must exhibit the tattoo by sitting topless in a gallery at least three times a year.
His first exhibition took place in Zurich in June 2006 – when the tattoo was still a work-in-progress. When the 10th anniversary fell last year, he was in the middle of his longest-ever exhibition, a whole year at the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart, Tasmania, working five hours a day, six days a week.
That came to an end on Tuesday.
"Sit on your desk, with your legs dangling off, straight backed and holding on to your knees for 15 minutes – it's tough," he says.
"I did this for 1500 hours. It was by far the most outrageously intense experience of my life.
"All that changed throughout the days was my state of mind – sometimes heaven, sometimes hell, always totally alert."
The only thing separating Steiner from visitors to the gallery is a line on the floor – a line that that in the past some have crossed.
The man who sold his back to an art dealer