From Our Archive
This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

Are Tattoos Art? The Andaz Hotel’s Tattoo Artist-in-Residence Weighs In

Courtesy Mister Cartoon

Is this a jump-the-shark moment? The Andaz, a luxury boutique hotel in New York, is hosting a—ready for it?—tattoo artist-in-residence. And not just any old tattoo artist. Mister Cartoon is actually a graffiti artist so renowned that an ice cream truck he airbrushed was featured in last summer’s “Art in the Streets” exhibition at MOCA, in Los Angeles. (If he’s good enough for Jeffrey Deitch…) In fact, he's so popular with the inked crowd that if you want to permanently display one of his decorative designs on your limbs, back or, er, wherever else—just like Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Eminem, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce have—you better join his two-year waiting list. Unless, of course, you book a room at the Andaz between now and December 22, in which case you can race to the head of the line.

While we were busy scratching our heads trying to figure out why a high-end hotel is offering this somewhat bizarre, yet arguably service-y service, it occurred to us that a larger cultural thing may be happening here. Just like “Art in the Streets” made a case for graffiti as art, could Mister Cartoon be pushing the boundaries of tattooer as artiste? We at took the opportunity to ask Mister Cartoon that very same question. Herewith, the big kahuna of tatting responds in our first ever one-question Q&A. Are tattoos art?

Mister Cartoon: I consider tattoos an art form, yet it did not start out that way. It used to be a trade, and its artistry was frowned upon. I got into it because I was doing graffiti and I started hanging out in tattoo shops in my early 20s. I just never left. The transition from graffiti to tattooing was a process. Learning the art of tattooing is not easy, but it’s worth the hard work. Some people come with designs and ideas; others let me do my thing—it depends on the client. The most memorable tattoo I’ve designed was my wife’s backpiece, along with Eminem’s daughter’s portrait and 50 Cent’s back. But I like it when it’s artist’s choice day. Prices start at $1,000;


Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

Come On In

U.S. issued American Express Platinum Card® and Centurion® Members, enter the first six digits of your card number to access your complimentary subscription.

Learn about membership.