The ephemeral nature of the pop-up is taking on the permanence of a tattoo. And the result is something between a museum and a grown-up fun house.
At Tattoo’d America, the first pop-up to open at Pop Vegas in the Linq Promenade, tattoo is the theme. But play is the attraction.
“I’d say it’s about 70, maybe 80 percent fun to 20 percent learning,” Pop Vegas General Manager Kassandra Lopez says. “People are so consumed with taking pictures and having fun, so we don’t want it to be stuffy. But if people want to know more, they can ask away.”
Tattoo’d America is the latest in the national trend of photocentric temporary exhibits designed to offer visitors the exact cocktail of fun and flashy that plays well on Instagram.
While other attractions of its kind have centered around family-friendly topics such as ice cream, candy and color, Pop Vegas endeavors to cater to adults. The attraction opened Thursday. Guests need to be 18 or older to enter and take the tour.
The exhibit tackles the topic through a series of interactive experiences. Tattooed mannequins linger inside a ball pit and a room of confetti. And wall prints and timelines that illustrate evolving tattoo styles lend context to the 5,000-year-old art form.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” says Lopez, gesturing at a mural of inked historical figures including Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt. “Today, 23 percent of the population is tattooed. More than $1.7 billion goes into the industry. Even if you don’t have them, you’re curious about them.”
Lopez wears her passion for tattoos on her sleeve — literally. Her left arm is a swirling bouquet of vibrant colors replete with a flamingo, a seahorse and big, bold flowers that climb up to her shoulder. Two colorful butterflies take up the space on the back of her hands.
“I have lupus. And I would get these little, almost like a rash that pops up,” Lopez says, rubbing the inside of her arm. “I thought I’m just going to cover it. I’d rather look down and see something beautiful than see that.”
The butterflies and a tattoo on her neck are thoughtfully placed, functioning as barriers to a career path she wants nothing to do with.
“They force me not to go into a corporate role,” Lopez says. “I want to do something creative and artistic and fun. So I gave myself insurance.”
Lopez encourages guests to be as forthcoming with their tattoo stories as she is with hers. Photo walls and curated hashtags invite inked guests to publicize their tattoos and the meanings behind them.
One of the first rooms on the tour is dark and decorated with glowing green and purple murals. Two body-painted mannequins stand in the corners. A dusting of confetti practically begs guests to toss it in the air for the perfect photo opp.
An exhibit dedicated to Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum celebrates the Nevada-born tattoo artist with wall art and a cash bar.
Another room features interactive projection mapping seen on “America’s Got Talent.” Visitors can don a white jumpsuit and watch as a projection of tattoos plays over their bodies.
Fittingly, Tattoo’d America offers two real tattoo experiences. Artists from Club Tattoo are on hand to give smitten visitors a permanent souvenir. And an artist from the company Inkbox can design semi-permanent tattoos on more commitment-phobic guests.
Naturally, no pop-up would be complete without a photo-ready ball pit.
“This has been so popular,” Lopez says of guests who stopped in for the soft opening. “People will pose for pictures or just lay in here for a while.”
Other spaces in the exhibit are filled with tattoo chairs, mannequins and flying inflatable pigs, alongside art galleries and literature.
As for Lopez, she figures her insurance has paid off. “This is the best job I’ve ever had. I’m surrounded by amazing artwork and creative people. And I get to sit around in a ball pit.”
If you go
What: Tattoo’d America at Pop Vegas
Where: The Linq Promenade
When: 11.30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and 10.30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Fri.-Sun.
Admission: $29; Nevada residents with ID $18