A man has sold an elaborate tattoo of the Virgin Mary, which is still on his back, to an art collector who plans to ‘exhibit’ him three times a year.

The extraordinary transaction – which Zurich gallery owner Jutta Nexdorf claims is the first of its kind, earned the vendor, Tim Steiner, 150,000 euros ($218,000).

The tattoo was designed by Belgian artist Wim Dalvoye and took 35 hours to create. In return Steiner is required to exhibit the work three times a year in public and private shows.

The sale agreement extends further, stating that after Steiner’s death the tattoo and its skin canvas will revert to the new owner, contemporary art collector Rik Reinking.

Under the terms of the sale, the owner will also be allowed to sell right to exhibit the tattoo.

The tattoo (and Steiner) will go on show for the first time next week in Singapore and Shanghai.

The video below shows Steiner as a German talk show guest – at the very end, he takes off his shirt to show off the tattoo.”

Delvoye started creating tattoos on pig skins from slaughterhouses and then began working on live pigs bred in a farm studio complex in China, using images such as the Louis Vuitton design and Walt Disney characters.

Bernard Fibicher, director of the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne, says the museum exhibited some of Delvoye’s pig skins this spring, and Fibicher added that the value of the work lay not in the design itself but rather in the concept.

“The role of art is to interrogate, not to reassure. This act disturbs society: a person becoming a work of art poses moral and legal questions.

They want to keep his skin when he dies; that becomes macabre and disagreeable, but interesting”.