Man sells his tattooed skin to art collector

Tim Steiner tattoo Wim Delvoye flay art
When he dies, he will be flayed and the tattoo removed (Wim Delvoye)

Former tattoo parlour manager Tim Steiner has made an unusual deal.

He agreed to get an elaborate tattoo done on his back - and when he dies, he will be flayed and the tattoo removed.

His skin will then be stretched, preserved, and framed for a private art collector.

The tattoo was designed by controversial Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, who became famous for tattooing pigs.

Mr Delvoye was looking for a human canvas - and Mr Steiner agreed.

After 40 hours of tattooing, the image was complete. It's a Madonna, surrounded by swallows, a Mexican-style skull, and koi fish.

"It's the ultimate art form in my eyes," Mr Steiner told the BBC.

"Tattooers are incredible artists who've never really been accepted in the contemporary art world. Painting on canvas is one thing, painting on skin with needles is a whole other story."

The artwork is called TIM, and sold for 150,000 euros (NZ$222,000) to German art collector Rik Reinking. Mr Steiner was given one-third of this.

"My skin belongs to Rik Reinking now," he says. "My back is the canvas, I am the temporary frame."

While the concept has attracted shock and disgust from the public, Mr Steiner isn't bothered.

"Gruesome is relative," Mr Steiner says.

"It's an old concept - in Japanese tattoo history it's been done many, many times. If it's framed nicely and looks good, I think it's not such a bad idea."