The Ed Hardy retrospective Deeper Than Skin finds fascinating formats to display tattoo works as museum pieces, and Hardy himself is expected to be on hand for tonight’s public opening at the de Young Museum.
Don Ed Hardy, better known as legendary tattooist Ed Hardy, took the Sailor Jerry style of tattoo art, infused it Japanese influences, and became the godfather of the modern tattoo revival movement. This spawned a brand of namesake frat-boy men’s apparel (over which Hardy had no creative control) that grossed $700 million in 2009 alone before being destroyed by legal conflicts.
Now retired, he still mentors artists at Ed Hardy’s Tattoo City in North Beach. But Ed Hardy’s career works will be displayed at the new de Young exhibit "Deeper Than Skin," which features “more than 300 objects ranging from paintings and sketches (including drawings Hardy created as a child) to prints and three-dimensional works,” and “tracks Hardy’s ongoing efforts to elevate the tattoo from its subculture, ‘outsider’ status to a more important visual art form.”
But more significantly, the exhibit may finally dissociate Hardy from the Tapout shirt/Abercrombie & Fitch apparel culture with which his name is regrettably most associated. As Hardy recalled in an Artnet interview this year, he was hesitant to brand his name out and made the mistake of not retaining creative control when Von Dutch founder Christian Audigier bought the rights. “Christian was one of those ‘any publicity is good publicity’ people, and he didn’t care who was wearing the Ed Hardy brand,” Hardy told the magazine. “Some of them were not great, inspiring people in the pop culture world. I want to say one of them was this guy, Jon Gosselin? I was aware of about ten percent of what was happening. It was really surreal.”
KPIX scored an exclusive interview with Hardy about the new exhibit, which celebrates his influence far more creatively than those goddamned Hollister-style t-shirts. “I love the fact that they set it up chronologically,” Hardy said of the display. “And that it ends up with pretty recent things that I’ve done.”
And Forbes also has this excellent preview from Forbes art critic Jonathan Keats, which unearths an amazing detail: When Hardy turned down a graduate position at the Yale School of Art to pursue tattooing, his San Francisco Art Institute instructors berated him for choosing a “bastardized sailortown craft.” Funny though, that (probably) none of those instructors ever got their own exhibit at the de Young Museum.
Tonight’s "Deeper Than Skin" public opening is unfortunately sold out, though you can also catch Hardy at Saturday’s free opening weekend talk and book signing. (Get there early, seating is first come, first served.) Otherwise, the Ed Hardy exhibit Deeper Than Skin remains on display through October 6, 2019.
Related: Society Queen Dede Wilsey Is Officially Stepping Down As President of the deYoung/Legion Of Honor Board [SFist]