Works of the iconic artist Tom of Finland to be exhibited in Japan for the first time

Date
March 18, 2020
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<< Following the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, and in accordance with the recommendations of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and WHO, we regret to inform you that our upcoming exhibition, “Reality & Fantasy: The World of Tom of Finland”, is postponed. 

The exhibition, and the accompanying programs, will take place in full at a new date this year, once the situation improves. 

We will keep you updated with any developments.

Many thanks for your support and understanding, and of course, keep safe and healthy. >>

 

We are pleased to announce the first exhibition in Japan of the works of the iconic Finnish artist Tom of Finland (born Touko Laaksonen, 1920-1991). The exhibition, at GALLERY X, is the fruits of a collaboration between the Finnish Institute Japan, the Embassy of Finland in Japan, the Tom of Finland Foundation, The Container gallery, and PARCO. The exhibition is curated by the Tokyo-based curator and director of The Container, Mr. Shai Ohayon. The exhibition was designed to coincide with Tom’s 100th birthday anniversary – #TOMs100.

The exhibition features a selection of 30 historical works, ranging from 1946 to 1989, covering the artist’s entire professional career, and highlighting both his artistic versatility and presenting his identity as an LGBTQ legend who paved the way for LGBTQ rights worldwide and helped to shape gay culture.

 

About the artist

Tom of Finland (born Touko Valio Laaksonen,1920, Kaarina – 1991, Helsinki), was a Finnish artist known for his homoerotic artworks, and for his influence on late twentieth century culture. During his prolific career, Tom produced over 3,500 illustrations, drawings, woodblock prints, and paintings, mostly featuring men in sexualized poses and compositions, to redefine masculinity and the position of gay men in modern society. He signed his work “Tom” and when his drawings were first published in 1957, the now world-famous “Tom of Finland” was born.

Tom’s works are in many permanent collections worldwide, including NY’s MoMA; Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago; The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), LA; Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, Turku; University of California Berkeley Art Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Tom of Finland Foundation, LA.

In 2006, The trustee of The Judith Rothschild Foundation, Harvey S. Shipley Miller, asserted about the Foundation’s gift to the MoMA of five of Tom’s work, “Tom of Finland is one of the five most influential artists of the twentieth century. As an artist he was superb, as an influence he was transcendent.”

 

About the exhibition

Reality & Fantasy: The World of Tom of Finland, brings together a selection of works, covering the artist’s entire four decades of career, and presents works on paper using a variety of mediums, such as graphite, gouache, markers, and pen & ink. Historically, the images highlight milestones and artistic stylistic developments in Tom’s life and practice—starting with his 1940s and ’50s paintings in gouache, of men in stylish attire and uniforms, such as sailors, soldiers and policemen, in fantastic and romantic compositions, influenced by his army service in Finland—to his stylized depictions of leathermen and muscle men in the ’60s and ’70s, and the cleaner, high contrast and graphic drawings of his later career when he was working in Los Angeles.

The exhibition also features many works commissioned by the Athletic Model Guild (AMG), founded and headed by Bob Mizer in 1945. Tom and Bob had a long-time professional relationship. It was Bob that added “of Finland” to Tom’s name as was the fashion of the day. Reality and Fantasy, includes a number of drawings that appeared in AMG’s magazine Physique Pictorial, including two drawings that appeared on the cover of the magazine (Untitled, from the AGM “Men of the Forests of Finland” series, 1957; and Untitled, from the AGM “Motorcycle Thief” series, 1964.)

The exhibition puts emphasis on Tom of Finland’s role in promoting sensual and erotic depictions of the male body as a catalyst for social change and the acceptance of gay people, while facing a legal and social reality they were fighting to change. Delving into a world of fantasy, with sexual freedom, Tom depicted a new “gay masculinity”, adding to the vocabulary of what gay men were allowed to be by society.

 

About Tom of Finland Foundation

In 1984, the nonprofit Tom of Finland Foundation (ToFF) was established by Durk Dehner and his friend Tom. As Tom of Finland had established worldwide recognition as the master of homoerotic art, the Foundation’s original purpose was to preserve his vast catalog of work. Several years later the scope was widened to offer a safe haven for all erotic art in response to rampant discrimination against art that portrayed sexual behavior or generated a sexual response. Today ToFF continues in its efforts of educating the public as to the cultural merits of erotic art and in promoting healthier, more tolerant attitudes about sexuality. www.TomOfFinland.org

 

About the film

Award-winning filmmaker Dome Karukoski brings to screen the life and work of one of the most influential and celebrated figures of twentieth century gay culture:

Touko Laaksonen, a decorated officer, returns home after a harrowing and heroic experience serving his country in World War II, but life in Finland during peacetime proves equally distressing. He finds post-war Helsinki rampant with homophobic persecution, and men around him even being pressured to marry women and have children. Touko finds refuge in his liberating art, specialising in homoerotic drawings of muscular men, free of inhabitations. His work – made famous by his signature ‘Tom of Finland’ – became the emblem of a generation of men and fanned the flames of a gay revolution.

Director: Dome Karukoski
RUNNING TIME: 1h 56 min
2017 / Finland / Sweden / Denmark / Germany
© Helsinki-filmi Oy, 2017