At the World Bodypainting Festival, skin becomes a canvas

An artist paints a model during the annual World Bodypainting Festival in Klagenfurt, Austria, July 14, 2018. This year’s festival, which begins on Thursday, marks the 25th anniversary of the event. File photo by Florian Wieser/EPA-EFE

July 21 (UPI) — The World Bodypainting Festival kicks off in Klagenfurt, Austria on Thursday, bringing together hundreds of bodypainting artists and enthusiasts from around the world.

The three-day festival, which has been taking place in the Goethepark in Klagenfurt since 2017, offers several competitions, stage shows and over 40 live bands. The “Bodypaint City” area of ​​the festival also offers a Bodypainting and Beauty EXPO as well as several “Adventure Zones”.

The event was founded in 1997 by the Austrian Alex Barendregt as the European Bodypainting Festival. Barendregt said he became interested in the art form after seeing photos from the 1970s that showed German model Veruschka von Lehndorff with her body covered in paint. He decided to start a festival after discovering that there weren’t any major events in Europe dedicated to what was then a niche art form.

“I think transformation has always been something human, transformation of the body [and] Decoration,” Barendregt told National Geographic in 2018. “You can express really good feelings, colors and emotions in an art form that also moves and screams and dances.”

The first two years of the festival, held in Seeboden, Austria, featured body painting showcases and in 1999 the first European Body Painting Awards were launched. Subsequent years have seen the addition of showcases and awards for photography and fine arts, as well as various categories of body painting, including brush and sponge, airbrush, team body painting, special effects makeup, and installation art.

In 2001, Barendregt founded the European Body Painting Association, a networking organization for body painting artists. The group expanded into the World Bodypainting Association in 2004, the same year the festival was renamed the World Bodypainting Festival.

In 2011 the festival moved to the city of Pörtschach. The organizers wrote on the event’s website that they had decided to leave Seeboden due to “politics and problems in the neighborhood”. In 2017 the festival moved again to its current home in Klagenfurt.

The festival went virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a “hybrid” version was held in 2021, where a scaled-down version of the live event was held in conjunction with virtual showcases and competitions.

The 2022 version, the 25th anniversary of the first European Bodypainting Festival, features the return of the large-scale live event where hundreds of artists from more than 50 countries are expected to demonstrate their skills and compete in amateur and professional categories will.

The festival and others that followed it are credited with increasing the popularity of body painting as an art form. The practice is increasingly viewed as a fine art by museums and galleries, and the practice became the subject of a reality TV series, Skin Wars, in 2014.

Barendregt said his ultimate goal is to build connections between body painting artists and the rest of the global art community.

“I now want to build this network not only within the body painting industry, but also with other artists and art institutions,” said Barendregt. “My vision would be an Art Basel for body painters.”

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