From Maroon 5's Adam Levine to a De Young Museum Exhibition This Summer, Tattoo Art Won't Be Unseen

Don Ed Hardy (American, b.  1945) Surf or Die, 2004.  Color lithograph with metallic gold powder, 772 x 572 mm (30 3/8 x 22 1/2 in.) Printed by Bud Shark.  Published by Shark’s Ink, Colorado.
Don Ed Hardy (American, b. 1945) Surf or Die, 2004. Color lithograph with metallic gold powder, 772 x 572 mm (30 3/8 x 22 1/2 in.) Printed by Bud Shark. Published by Shark’s Ink, Colorado.
(Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)
  • Don Ed Hardy (American, b.  1945) Tattoo Seas Shark, 1995.  Color lithograph, 30 x 22 5/8 in.  (76.2 x 57.5 cm).  Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of the artist 2017.46.120 © Ed Hardy

    Don Ed Hardy (American, b. 1945) Tattoo Seas Shark, 1995. Color lithograph, 30 x 22 5/8 in. (76.2 x 57.5 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of the artist 2017.46.120 © Ed Hardy

    Image courtesy of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

On Sunday, the Super Bowl halftime performance with Maroon 5 gave a surprising show of tattoo body art. After band frontman Adam Levine stripped off his shirt, an eyeful of tattooed words, symbols and images came into full view. Notably, "CALIFORNIA" inscribed across the singer's abdomen, plus cherry blossoms down his arms, a lion, cherub, eagle and dove, and a full back rendering of a winged mermaid cradling a skull, among much more, as noted by TIME.

Next up, tattoos as an art form will get a museum exhibition in California this summer.

The major retrospective Art for Life: Ed Hardy and the Tattoo Renaissance, which opens in July 2019 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, will explore the renowned tattoo artist’s inspiration from both traditional American tattooing of the first half of the 20th century and the graphic arts produced by Japan’s ukiyo-e era culture.

Based on a major acquisition of Hardy’s works by the Achenbach Foundation of Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums, in dialogue with pieces from Hardy’s personal collection, the exhibition includes more than 300 paintings, drawings, prints, and three-dimensional works that, in the words of the artist, “reflect the disturbing nature of tattooing itself, the blurry patina of aged tattoos that have been in the skin for many decades, of design sheets yellowing on old tattoo parlor walls—a faded world almost extinct” in the popularized fad of tattooing in contemporary culture.

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