Chris Nùñez's Art Gallery/Tattoo Parlor
By Deborah L. Martin
Tattoo artist and Ink Master Chris Núñez is finding the sweet spot in Wynwood with Handcrafted Miami.
Chris Núñez at Handcrafted Miami, his new gallery and tattoo studio in Wynwood.
When you walk into tattoo parlor/art gallery Handcrafted Miami, one of the first things you notice is the real World War II anchor embedded in resin in the concrete floor of the entrance. Owner and Miami native Chris Núñez explains. “This is my place to drop anchor. It keeps me grounded here, where I’m from.” Currently starring on Spike TV’s Ink Master, now finishing up its fourth season, and previously a partner in the South Beach shop Miami Ink and star and co-creator of the TLC reality show of the same name, the artist is passionate about this new venture. “I’ve been bouncing around since I first started tattooing. This is a place where I have roots.” And roots are a big part of the theme at Handcrafted Miami.
Tattoo parlors have always had a bit of art gallery in their DNA. Most tattoo artists hang their drawings, and the walls of many shops are covered with inspiration and the work of other artists. But Handcrafted Miami is something entirely different. Says Núñez, “I wanted it to be a social club as well as a tattoo shop and art gallery, a place where local artists and like-minded creative thinkers from all over the world can come in, have some coffee or a drink, and hang out together and trade ideas and collaborate.” Wynwood’s burgeoning art scene proved a perfect fit. “Choosing Wynwood as a location was important. It’s a real neighborhood where we can have an impact and where we can establish deep roots.”
Núñez knows a thing or three about Miami neighborhoods. The 43-year-old former graffiti artist grew up on the streets of the city, quite literally. “I hung around with all these graffiti guys, and they were all tattooed,” he says. “And my art started to look more like tattoo art than graffiti. Tattooing was a natural progression for me.” In Handcrafted Miami, Núñez is now in a position to promote and encourage the work of other artists, both established and up and coming. “A lot of mainstream corporations use tattoo and graffiti imagery, but they are just photoshopping designs and creating something digitally that mimics what real artists are doing,” he says. “I want people to understand and see the artistry of tattooing, and I want the artists to get credit, and hopefully financial reward, for their work.”
The 3,000-square-foot gallery will, at least initially, feature “street” artists and tattooers who are working in all kinds of mediums, not just skin and spray paint. And while visitors are browsing the artworks, they just might be inspired to take some of it home for their walls as well as on their bodies. “Tattoo is an art form that lives with the person until he or she dies. It’s living art and that, to me, is what makes it really exciting.” 3438 N. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-571-8194
photography by nick garcia
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.