Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s most influential artists for his groundbreaking representation of the male figure. In his youth Tom trained at an advertising school, but what he would come to call his “dirty drawings,” which he first began developing as a teenager, were the true focus of his attention, both during this formative period and throughout the entirety of his life. These masterful renderings of virile men engrossed in acts of homoerotic desire can be approached along several interpretive lines––art historical, social, technical––but each of them points to the revolutionary nature of his project. Tom gave form to an imaginative universe that in turn helped fuel real-world liberation movements and enabled gay men to access their strength in new ways. The work of a master draftsman, whose passion for both his medium and his subject matter enabled him to become a powerful cultural force, Tom's drawings reaffirm the centrality of sexuality, joy, and the body in all areas of human endeavor.
In 2015, Artists Space, New York, organized The Pleasure of Play, the most comprehensive survey exhibition of Tom of Finland’s work in the United States, which traveled to Kunsthalle Helsinki in 2016. Other solo and two-person exhibitions devoted to the life and work of Tom of Finland include Tom of Finland: Love and Liberation, House of Illustration, London (2020); Tom of Finland – The Darkroom, Fotografiska, Tallinn, Estonia; Fotografiska, New York; and Fotografiska, Stockholm (2020); TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland, Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2018); Sealed with a Secret: Correspondence of Tom of Finland, Postimuseo, Tampere, Finland (2014); Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2013); and Kulturhuset, Stockholm (2012). Recent group exhibitions include Art & Porn, ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Aarhus, Denmark, and Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2020); Camp: Notes on Fashion, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2019); Slash: In Between the Normative and the Fantasy, Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, Riga, Latvia (2015); Keep Your Timber Limber (Works on Paper), Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2013); and We the People, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York (2012). His drawings are in the public collections of Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many other institutions.