The de Young Announces the First Museum Retrospective for Renowned Tattoo Icon Ed Hardy

Don Ed Hardy (American, b. 1945), Future Plans, 1967, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of the artist 
2017.46.56, © Ed Hardy

Ed Hardy: Deeper than Skin
July 13 - October 6, 2019 | de Young museum

“Art is a way of looking at the world. It echoes what inspires you.” —Ed Hardy

SAN FRANCISCO – Ed Hardy: Deeper than Skin is the first museum retrospective of the renowned and iconic tattoo artist Ed Hardy. Featuring more than 300 objects ranging from paintings and sketches (including drawings Hardy created as a 10-year-old) to prints and three-dimensional works, the exhibition will track Hardy’s ongoing efforts to elevate tattooing from its “outsider” status.

In the mid 1960s, a young Ed Hardy visited the Legion of Honor museum at the urging of his San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) professor. Along with his fellow printmaking students, Hardy was introduced to old master prints in the Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, the department responsible for the Fine Arts Museums’ collection of more than 115,000 works on paper. Hardy would often return to the Legion thereafter, studying the intricacies of prints by artists such as Dürer, Rembrandt, and Goya, mining inspiration for his own work. In 1966, while getting one of his first tattoos from the legendary Phil Sparrow, Hardy was introduced to a book on Japanese tattooing that triggered an impulse to pursue a career dedicated to revolutionizing the imagery of conventional American tattooing, elevating it into an important art medium while expanding the boundaries of what art, in all its forms, can be.

“Ed Hardy reinvented the very nature of the tattoo inspired in large part by his early exposure to the masterworks in our collection,” says Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “His impact has transformed the tattoo industry and we are delighted to provide the opportunity for wider audiences to explore his tremendous achievement both on and off the body."

In 2017, to honor the Achenbach’s holdings and the impact that it had on his work, Ed Hardy donated to the Fine Arts Museums one impression of almost every print he ever made, a combined 152 in total. Ed Hardy: Deeper than Skin will feature around 40 of these prints, in addition to paintings, drawings, and three-dimensional works from the artist’s personal collection.

Key objects on view will include Hardy’s monumental 2000 Dragons, a 500-foot-long scroll on which he painted 2,000 dragons. Hardy conceived the idea in 1976, waiting 24 years to bring the piece to fruition to honor the millennial year 2000, as well as the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac. Other key objects will include a series of large-scale works called Eyecons, made in collaboration with Trillium Graphics in Brisbane, California. Eyecons feature Hardy’s iconic imagery on three-dimensional objects including disks, panels, and even boogie boards—a nod to Hardy’s childhood growing up in Southern California. Viewers can also expect to see prints that Hardy created as a student at SFAI, juxtaposed with the master prints from the Achenbach that inspired them, as well as tattoo flash (sample tattoo designs), preparatory drawings, and paintings that showcase the themes of Hardy’s tattoo imagery integrating with his fine art practice.

“While Ed is widely known as an iconic tattoo artist, we’re excited that visitors will see another side of him and become more familiar with works from his own artistic practice,” says Karin Breuer, curator in charge of the Achenbach. “Since retiring from active tattooing in 2008, he’s created a significant body of art in a range of styles and imagery, each piece incorporating elements of conventional tattooing with traditional fine art.”

Ed Hardy: Deeper than Skin is organized by Karin Breuer, curator in charge of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The exhibition will be on view at the de Young museum starting July 13, 2019.

Visiting \ de Young
Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco. Open 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays. Open select holidays; closed most Mondays.

Exhibition Organization
This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition in Golden Gate Park and was established as the Memorial Museum in 1895. It was later renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, who spearheaded its creation. The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, opened in 2005. Reflecting an active conversation among cultures, perspectives, and time periods, the collections on display include American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international modern and contemporary art.

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