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.
Tom of Finland has recently been the subject of solo and two-person exhibitions at the Mike Kelley's Mobile Homestead, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2018); Salon Dahlmann, Berlin (2017); Artists Space, New York (2015); Postimuseo, Tampere, Finland (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (with Bob Mizer, 2013); and Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Stockholm (2012). His work is in the public collections of Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Portland Museum of Art, Oregon; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Art Institute of Chicago; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, among many other institutions. The Tom of Finland Foundation, dedicated to preserving Tom's legacy and supporting erotic art since 1984, operates out of the Tom of Finland House (TOM House), the artist's former shared residence and now a Historic-Cultural Monument in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.