If you are going to get a tattoo done, getting it done in Havana is a good idea. The artists are highly talented and the prices are a lot less than in Europe or North America. This is despite the fact that running a tattoo studio in Cuba is hard: there is no such thing as an “official” tattooist license, so artists are in a legal limbo. Moreover, importing ink and other equipment is difficult (ask if you can bring a studio some stuff for a discount). Nonetheless, the Cuban tattoo scene is thriving. Here are the best tattoo and body art studios in Havana.
La Marca Bodyart
Address: 108C, Obrapía Street, between Oficios and Mercaderes. Habana Vieja, Havana
La Marca Bodyart is a professional tattoo studio, with different artists that have came from former artistic projects such as “Lienzos Vivientes” (Living Paintings), from the cultural association Hermanos Saíz. Other have studied at the national art and design schools.
Leo Canosa, the project’s leader, is a tattoo artist with more than twenty years of experience. He always dreamed of creating his own tattoo studio in the Historical Centre of Havana, thus emulating many other cities around the world. He envisioned this project as a point to meet people from everywhere, to network with many artists and a blend of arts manifestations, thus creating a new approaching to the tattoo itself. The name of “La Marca” (The Mark) comes from the idea of having a tattoo as an element of distinction, and that it is itself a mark in the body.
All the body art styles are comprised, and always starting from the premise of exclusiveness. The artist work, however, is motivated by the client’s request, hence achieving an original creation. That’s the aim of La Marca, to create pieces of art that really stand out the customer. Let’s get to know the team:
Apart from Leo, the owner, there is a group of artist and entrepreneurs who together form the brand. The talented tattooists and artists from the studio are Mauro Coca, David Pérez, Daniel González, Ángel Fernandez, Lyam Toledo, Jose Francisco Casanova and Robertiko Ramos. This later is the man behind the well-known gallery of La Marca. Other studios are also welcome to work with them. Along the year, different artists from other provinces and from abroad come here to collaborate.
There is a big deal of options to share experiences and enjoy at La Marca. They organise bimestrial expositions about diverse topics including literature, painting, music, audio-visuals. They take in concerts and campaigns that allow them to display their values and ethos as well. It is also a place for learning and growing as artists, since they coordinate creative workshops meant for children, teenagers and specialists.
The international interest of La Marca is ample, since they attend many conventions in countries like Mexico, USA or Canada. Their connections are considerable, taking into account that many foreigners come to Havana as guest artists. The studio and gallery acts as a venue for different local projects and national cultural events. By way of example, it could be mentioned the Biennial of Design and the Havana Biennial, which takes place between April and May.
Once you enter the studio, you will be immediately attracted to the gallery if you are an art fan. Moreover, feel free of checking any of the books available to consult which sort of style practise each artist from the house. You can purchase your own souvenir in a small shop, with pieces or arts and craftwork. The products are limited editions with a pronounced emphasis in the design and the authorship.
Zenit Tattoo Studio
Address: 114, 286 Street, % 1raA and 1raB, Santa Fe, Havana
Zenit Tattoo Studio is a sui generis site in Havana where you can go and pay for your own tattoo made by Cubans. But it is more than a common business.
The history of Zenit is quite recent but ample. Everything began in 2013, when Alberto Ferrer and Ana Lyem Lara decided to create their own body art studio. Alberto came from Havana Tattoos, a former enterprise directed by tattooist Jhanko, who also mentored Ana in days gone by. Now she feels influenced by Jhanko, but assuming a particular style, so being considered one of the best female tattoo artist in the country. She named the studio in resemblance to her old-fashioned Soviet photographic camera, the Zenit 11. Nowadays, the company logo bears the camera, and also the triangle with the eye of the providence, the same that Alberto has tattooed in his hand.
But, when it comes to the paintings, what kind of tattoos they make? Literally, any kind. They are four tattoo artists, headed by Ana, who mainly works in the traditional style, neo-traditional and coloured. Black prefers the old school or American traditional, whilst Daimar is a specialist in the realistic tattoos and the black and grey. The last one is Hermano Nazir, a living legend of Cuban body art, as Alberto has stated. He prefers the black tribal motifs like ethnic tattoos. If you fancy the piercings, then Alberto is the most suitable for this.
Are you planning to go to Havana soon? Check your almanac and look if any Friday the 13th falls into your holiday. If yes, maybe you can obtain a discount for a personalized “number 13 tattoo” courtesy of Zenit. They also organise different events like the Grl Pwr (Girl Power), every 8th of March. As you can see, here you will find more than a tattoo studio. Skating, Hip Hop, DJs, graffiti artists and a plethora of urban movements are related to Zenit, which are happy of promoting also the alternative music. In any painting or photo exposition they sponsor, you could find local bands like Los Locos Tristes, El Mundo de Sofía, Bárbaro el Urbano Vargas, El Individuo, Dj Lápiz.
The headquarters are located in Santa Fe, a town in the outskirts of Havana. In spite of being far from the city centre, the personnel of Zenit feels at ease there, and not because of that, they lose popularity. On the contrary, they show that Havana is more than Vedado and the Old city. The place has a vintage decoration and is ideal to feel the Cuban ambience and talk about any topic. In the warm, confident and familiar environment of the studio-gallery is not awkward if you see costumers playing some videogames or eating along with the owners thanks to the plates that provides their neighbour María.
Address: Empedrado 217 between Cuba and San Ignacio, Old Havana
Opening times: 11-19 all days except Sundays
Luna Tattoo is hidden away in the upstairs bit of a souvenir shop on the street that also houses the “Bodeguita del Medio”. Once you walk up the stairs you are confronted with a small but modern, hygienic and air conditioned tattoo studio. Funnily enough, this studio also has a great wifi signal from the neighbouring tourist hotspot of the “Bodeguita”.
Luna means moon in Spanish, hence the moon in the studio’s logo. But Luna Tattoos is named after the owner Yunior Lorente Luna. Like other tattoo artists Yunior studied arts and is a licensed artist, but operates in the same legal limbo.
However, Yunior takes his job very seriously and do their best to stay safe and certified. For example, Yunior and all of his team have also completed the Florida Tattoo Education course, a course approved by the Florida Department of Health.
Luna has been around for three years already and is stocked with brand new equipment. The way it was brought into the country is evidence of the difficulties faced by Cuban tattoo artists. Every time they are running low on supplies, when a costumer from abroad gets in touch to book an appointment, they offer them a discount in exchange for buying the supplies of Amazon and bringing them over to Cuba.
For lack of space this is a tattoo shop only, no piercings are done here. They offer fixes, unique designs and retouches.