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Can the World's Oldest Tattoo Shop Be Saved?

Jack tattooing Peter Severin
Jack tattooing Peter Severin | © Tattoo Ole
The legendary Tattoo Ole at Denmark’s Nyhavn 17 is the world’s oldest functioning tattoo shop with over 133 years under its belt. However, the tattoo shop now faces the risk of being shut down and turn into a restaurant kitchen.

Among fancy restaurants and stylish cafés at Number 17 of Copenhagen’s touristic district, Nyhavn, stands Tattoo Ole, the world’s oldest tattoo shop. When it opened in 1884, the art of ink wasn’t very popular in Northern Europe, however, tattoo Ole introduced the art of tattooing to Scandinavians. The tattoo shop’s clientele included locals who used to work at the port, to sailors who traveled from Sweden and other neighbouring countries to Frederik IX, the King of Denmark from 1947 to 1972.

King Frederik IX showing off his tattoos during a photo shooting for LIFE magazine © Tattoo Ole

Over these 133 years, many tattoo artists passed through the shop, leaving their mark on the place and on the art of tattooing in general, including Ink Hans, the legendary Tattoo Jack, and Ole Hansen, who inked King Frederik IX. At the time Nyhavn wasn’t a tourist attraction but a hangout for sailors, merchants, and prostitutes, and was Hans Christian Andersen’s favourite neighbourhood where he lived for 20 years. Of course, by the time the renowned author died, the tattoo shop hadn’t opened yet but had he lived a bit longer, he would be Ole Hansen’s next-door neighbour as Andersen’s last home was on Nyhavn 18.

Nyhavn 17, Tattoo Jack tattooing © Tattoo Ole

Now, the owner of the building wants to end the lease with the tattoo shop and use the space to expand the kitchen of the restaurant housed on the second floor. However, Petersen doesn’t seem willing to give up the fight so easily and the case has now been taken to court. The trial date is September 14th.

‘They want to have a bigger kitchen and I want to save history,’ Petersen says in a video published on her official Facebook page.

The renowned and experienced tattoo artist, who has owned the place since 2010, has launched an online petition and already 10,000 signatures have been collected while tattoo artists and tattoo lovers from around the world are visiting the parlour in order to show their support.

Tattooist Ole at work, 1966 © Tattoo Ole