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 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 coincides with Tom of Finland’s 100th birthday anniversary – #TOMs100.
Reality & Fantasy: The World of Tom of Finland
GALLERY X (B1F, Shibuya PARCO)
Opening hours: 11:00-21:00
*Last entry time 30mins before close
*Close at 18:00 in 10/05
*Pre-school child not allowed in
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.
The Finnish Institute in Japan organises an extensive auxiliary programme including a lecture series on Tom of Finland. There are also film screenings and a satellite exhibition of Japanese artists inspired by Tom of Finland.
See the auxiliary programme
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 of Finland’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 of Finland and Mizer had a long-time professional relationship. It was Mizer that added “of Finland” to Tom of Finland’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 of Finland depicted a new “gay masculinity”, adding to the vocabulary of what gay men were allowed to be by society.
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 of Finland’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 Tom of Finland Foundation
In 1984, the nonprofit Tom of Finland Foundation (ToFF) was established by Durk Dehner and his friend Tom of Finland. 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