Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, 1920–1991) is widely regarded as one of the twentieth 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 interpretative lines—art historical, social, technical—but each of them points to the revolutionary nature of his project. A master draftsman, whose passion for both his medium and his subject matter enabled him to become a powerful cultural force, 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. Tom's drawings reaffirm the centrality of sexuality, joy, and the body in all areas of human endeavor.
Tom of Finland has been the subject of numerous solo and two-person exhibitions across the globe, including Tom of Finland: Bold Journey, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finland (2023); Tom of Finland – The Darkroom, Fotografiska, Stockholm, Tallinn, Estonia, and New York (2020–2021); Tom of Finland: Love and Liberation, House of Illustration, London (2020); Reality & Fantasy: The World of Tom of Finland, Gallery X, Tokyo and Osaka (2020); TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland, Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2018); The Pleasure of Play, Artists Space, New York (2015) and Kunsthalle Helsinki (2016); and Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2013). 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); Keep Your Timber Limber (Works on Paper), Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2013); and We the People, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York (2012). His work is in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki; Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many other institutions.