SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The de Young museum is taking on the work of Ed Hardy, one of the late 20th century’s most iconic artists, at their new exhibit, “Deeper Than Skin.”

The exhibit is something unlike anything most have seen at the museum before, and it’s even a new sight for the for the legendary artist behind it.

“It is a first,” said a slightly stunned Hardy. “It’s a real high point that I never would’ve expected.” He is the man credited with the 20th century tattoo renaissance, and on Wednesday, he found himself walking the halls the de Young Museum and through an exhibit dedicated to his work.

“And to have it all featured this way, it’s overwhelming,” Hardy said, looking through the exhibit. “I am absolutely still in shock. It’s gonna take a few weeks to go, ‘Oh my god, this is really happening.’”

Part of the “Deeper Than Skin” exhibit that showcases Hardy’s influence on the tattoo world and, subsequently, the art world (CBS)

Born in Southern California, Hardy is very much a San Francisco local now. His tattoo parlor sits on Lombard Street in North Beach.  His dog was on hand for the show preview Wednesday morning. The exhibit is very much an outline of his life.

“I love the fact that they set it up chronologically,” Hardy says. “And that it ends up with pretty recent things that I’ve done.”

As the work evolves from his childhood, through the 60s and 70s, you begin to see the impression he has made.

“Ed has proven, I think, with the art that he has made, that tattoos can be art,” explained Karin Breuer, the curator in charge of the exhibit.

The art also makes for show with some things museumgoers are usually not expecting, and it may stretch the notion of what a museum might feel like. “Which I love,” said Hardy.”

“People need to realize that museums are living organisms. They’re keeping all this stuff alive from past cultures.”

Displayed at the exhibit is the work of a tattoo pioneer–once the realm of pirates and scofflaws–now on display at a museum of fine art.

“And that’s what it’s about,” Hardy said of the exhibit. “That to me is the greatest thing. It isn’t just to go, ‘Yeah, my stuff is here.’ It’s a celebration of the human spirit. As corny as that is. That’s what it is, you know?”

There will be a opening party Thursday night with a DJ and cocktails. It is open to the public.

The exhibit begins July 13 and runs through October 6.

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