John Windsor on a tattooed artist at the cutting edge
The Pompidou Centre in Paris has sent in the first bidding slip for the tattooed signature "F Arias" on the artist's groin. It has not named a sum, but if negotiations are successful, the price will include the cost of its surgical removal and a skin graft.

Fernando Arias, a 33 year old Colombian installation artist who graduated in art and design at the old City of London Polytechnic, touted his artwork - himself, that is - at the Arco 97 art fair in Madrid last month. The 1,000 bidding slips were snapped up on the first day.

"What Am I Bid" (its title), is - in case you hadn't guessed - a comment on the art market, notably its obsession with signatures as proof of authenticity. Arias never signs his works and once had a barny with a Canadian collector who made him scratch his name with a nail on a metal and glass sculpture of his.

A full-colour sales brochure for the tattoo contains a bidding slip and bears a pastiche of the London auctioneer Christie's logo with Arias' portrait and the legend "Crisi's".

As it happens, Arias is not even his real surname. Gaviria is: but that causes him no end of bother with South American border guards because it is a name linked with a Colombian drug cartel and is the name of a former Colombian president.

Arias's usual medium is not skin but blood. And occasionally cocaine. Refused funds by the Gallery of Modern Art in Bogota, he used stencils to write a quote from the rejection letter in 50 grams of cocaine sprinkled onto the flat surface of three litres of his own dried blood, then encased it in a clear plastic box as an artwork. His miniature installation that will appear in a group show at the Architectural Association, Bedford Square, London WC1 from 3 March for three weeks is expected to be less challenging.

Following Arco, three public galleries, in Mexico City, Colombia and Madrid, have invited him to create new artworks - if there is enough of him left.

Bids for "What Am I Bid" should be sent to: Independent Public Arts Ltd, 11 Randolph Place, Edinburgh EH3 7TA.