A talk with Mark Mahoney in Ibiza

Image post: A talk with Mark Mahoney in Ibiza

By Laura Martínez

His blue eyes are capable of telling stories just by looking at them. They speak of a living legend and a timeless, rebellious artist. We talked to Mark Mahoney, the man behind the crystalline gaze that made history in the world of tattoo art when he started his career in Boston in 1977, oblivious to the state laws that did not allow tattooing. The punk scene dominated tattoo culture, and Mahoney was designated the godfather of the so-called 'Black and Grey with a single needle' movement that emerged in the Eighties.

This legendary half-American, half-Irish tattoo artist has maintained his status in the tattoo world since the late 1970s and has continued to revolutionise the current scene with his unique style. He is said to be the celebrities' favourite tattoo artist; it is no coincidence that he has inked countless Hollywood stars and cultivated great friendships with many of them. His list of regular clients includes Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Lana del Rey, David and Brooklyn Beckham, Britney Spears, Harry Styles, Rihanna and Jared Leto, to name but a few. I get a bit gossipy and ask him which clients he has the closest relationship with. He laughs and says: "Johnny (Depp) was one of my first clients; I think he was only 16 or 17 when I did his first tattoo, and I also did his latest one; he is a great friend. I'm also really good friends with another long-time client, the grand Mickey Rourke.”


Mahoney tells us how the perception of his profession has changed over the years: "I've seen my work go from being an illicit practice to a revered form of art in popular culture, and that's great, but it also leaves a feeling of vindication for those of us who paved the way for others.” He's the owner and lead tattooist of the Shamrock Social Club on Sunset Boulevard (whose main motto is Where the elite and the underground meets), where he continues accumulating a following at his temple of ink. 

In 2022, Mahoney and Concept Hotel Group CEO and co-founder Diego Calvo - a big tattoo lover and bearer of a fair few - got in touch with the artist to do a pop-up tattoo studio in the Zero Suite at Paradiso Art Hotel. Said and done. They quickly discovered that they had many things in common, and the Boston Irishman came to Ibiza without thinking twice, accompanied by his wife Nicole (a proud Irishwoman) and spent a couple of days getting to know the island. To get a Mahoney tattoo, you just had to sign up to a waiting list and receive your confirmation. The pop-up was a success, and due to high demand, many missed out on the opportunity to have a Mahoney masterpiece for posterity. The one person who didn't want to miss the chance to wear such an honour on their skin was Calvo himself, who asked to get a particular tattoo on his left forearm for the first time. "I designed the tattoo that Alabama gets in the film 'True Romance', and as soon as Diego heard about it, he didn't hesitate to get it. Turns out it's his favourite film!"

When I ask Mark what he would never tattoo, he answers clearly: "I would never tattoo a 666, it's something that gives me a real bad feeling and I have refused to do it on many occasions. When I ask him about something he always likes to do, he is equally clear: "When people ask for a rose tattoo, I always smile because its symbolism always moves me, and it's nice to see how it takes on different nuances for each person."


Mahoney has a tough-guy image but is genuinely warm and friendly when you meet him in person. This macho image has earned him several appearances in series such as 'American Gigolo' on Showtime, the films 'Black Mass' and 'Blood Ties' as well as two of his friend Lana del Rey's music videos: 'West Coast' and 'Shades of Cool'. He is also renowned for his unique style: handmade shoes, Western shirts and a neat quiff. "I've always thought that fashion and tattoos go hand in hand. I think tattoo culture is pure high fashion for people who go beyond and don't conform. People who have a broader vision of life," he says emphatically. The sum of his two passions materialised in 2019 when the tattoo artist joined forces with English designer Paul Smith to launch a shirt collection together. "With how I dress, many people don't think I'm a tattoo artist. With the collection I did with Paul, we wanted to bring the best of both of us together. Classic old-school tattoo images like the panther or the swallow, images that symbolise hope and optimism. It's an ode to friendship, English forces and American forces."

Mahoney is an icon who experienced the Strip in its full splendour, where he still leads the scene at Shamrock Social Club, "overdressed and underpaid," as he jokingly says, and from where he leaves us, looking forward to more of his visits to the island, where Concept Hotel Group will always be his home.

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