Mike Bakaty (Emeritus)

Mike Bakaty was an active artist showing sculpture in Soho galleries and being reviewed in Artforum in the 1970s when Soho was the epicenter of New York City art, then the cutting edge in the world. Not liking the scene much, he realized that not one of his fine art colleagues could create a quality tattoo. In short, he walked away from a fine art career, to become one of the leading tattoo artists in the USA, his drawing surpassed by none. He was a superb draftsman (a visual artist who specializes in artistic drawings). These original drawings were the underpinnings of spectacular tattoos that made their way from paper to skin, from graphite to ink.

Not only was Mike Bakaty among the few tattoo artists who had a Masters degree in fine art, but in 1976 established Fineline Tattoo in New York City, the longest continually running tattoo shop in Manhattan. When tattooing became legal in NYC, Bakaty obtained the first license issued. He set the standard and continued to raise the bar as he worked continually for forty years, never losing his enthusiasm for the medium. He was a consummate artist focused on his work right up to the end.

Mike Bakaty tutored and mentored Mehai Bakaty, now an equally brilliant tattoo artist, from the age of 10; by 19 years of age, Mehai was working full-time in his shop. This dynamic father and son duo worked together in the same studio, side by side, for 25 years generating work that brought fans, workers and celebrities alike, from around the world . Mehai, fully capable and profoundly talented in his own right, will carry the Bakaty torch!

Our dear friend, Mike Bakaty, an incredible person, will remain with us in memory and spirit. All those who knew him were all the better for it. Virtually, thousands were touched by his humanity and talent -–and have the honor of wearing his art.

— E.J. Vaughn, NYC filmmaker