A New York view on Hamburg

Tattoo artist Kevin King

Kevin King Title

What does a hip tattoo artist have in common with Bruce Willis or Sandra Bullock? Just like the Hollywood stars, Kevin King was born in Germany but his family moved to the US when he was three years old.


Anne Kleinfeld

Anne likes things that have wit, music, and love, and she is fascinated by human peculiarities. She writes best late at night with a weird cat in her lap.

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As a grown-up, he now works at Bang Bang NYC – one of the most famous tattoo studios in the world. With about 30K followers on his Instagram profiles the artist also known as blvckwork is famous for his minimalistic and neat designs. Fortunately, he took some time off from his international clients to pay a visit to Hamburg. We met Kevin for a little ‘Schnack’ at the Jungfernstieg – and found a New Yorker’s view on Hamburg’s highlights, inspiration for future tattoos and a recommendation for a good hangover cure.

Welcome to Hamburg, Kevin! Are you here on business or is it a private trip?

Kevin: I wanted to come to Hamburg for a long time and now I'm glad I finally made it. I've been to Berlin last week, now I'm in Hamburg for five days and afterwards I'll fly to Copenhagen before I return to the US. So yeah, it's a private vacation, I'm staying at a friend's house. It's my first time around and I've been really enjoying everything so far.

Well then, what did you do or see so far?

A lot of stuff! We did a harbor boat trip, visited the old Elbtunnel and went out for drinks and table football on the Reeperbahn. We also strolled around in the Sternschanze-district, which I liked a lot. There are all of these laid-back bars and people seem to be very relaxed. We went to a lot of restaurants, I actually feel like I’ve been eating all the time. At the Hatari restaurant I tried Spätzle for the first time and it was really tasty. I also had a fish plate the other day, probably the most Hamburg-like thing I ate. Today I had to fight my hangover with a Vietnamese soup in the city – it helped very well.

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Table football at Rosi's Bar in St. Pauli. Kevin's hangover cure: Vietnamese soup.

If you compare Hamburg to New York: What are the most remarkable things about our city?

I really love Hamburg’s architecture with its mixture of old and new elements. You see that almost everywhere you go – even combined in one building as for instance in the new opera house. I saw the Elbphilharmonie from the boat the other day and have been trying to get in afterwards, but I think they were just closing so I didn’t make it inside this time. Hamburg is also cleaner than NYC and more centralized. You got these different districts, but everything is closer together. And there’s one German thing I don't get used to in general: When you go to the bathroom in public, it often says “D“ and “H“ on the doors. The later it gets the less I can remember what those letters stand for.

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Kevin loves Hamburg's mixture of old and new elements - for example like Elphi.

Are there any tattoo artists from Hamburg you know or even follow on Instagram yourself?

Definitely yes! I love Vaders Dye, it’s a great studio in the city center run by Melina Wendlandt who is actually coming to New York in a couple of days. So after I just met her here in Hamburg, I’ll see her over there when I’m back from my trip. But it’s not just a personal thing, I like all of the artists‘ work at Vaders Dye. They do this minimalistic and very clean blackwork, just as I prefer it within my own art.

There are these typical Hamburg-related tattoo motifs such as anchor or sailboat. If you had to visualize you Hamburg experience in a tattoo right now, what would that look like?

Uh, hard one. Maybe something like that fountain over there on the Inner Alster. But with beer com-ing out of it instead of water. Drawn really clean and beautiful – just like Hamburg itself.

Sounds great! Kevin, thanks for the talk and ahoi!

Photos: Anne Kleinfeld, Dominik Böcker, Kevin King

You can find Kevin on Instagram under kevinking.nyc and blvckwork

Kevin King Outro