About TOM’s Foundation
Who we are
In 1984, the nonprofit Tom of Finland Foundation (ToFF) was established by Durk Dehner and his friend Tom. As Tom 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.
Unlike many artists, Tom of Finland’s work has always been appreciated by a grass-roots audience as his work was first seen in commercial settings such as magazine illustration, posters and advertising. From the perspective of art historians, Tom’s work had an effect on global culture unmatched by that of virtually any other artist. Tom’s work had a defining impact on the way Gay men throughout the world were perceived and more importantly, how they perceived themselves. Tom’s work has, therefore, had a ripple effect throughout Gay and Straight culture, influencing lifestyle, political tolerance, design, fashion and art.
One of the primary goals of the Foundation is to promote Tom’s work along with other erotic art so that it receives the academic attention it deserves.
From a critical perspective, thanks in part to the sustained commitment of the Foundation, Tom’s art is receiving the acknowledgment it merits. The Finnish Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma was the first to make a progressive move in its 1991 cquisition of three Tom of Finland works. In 1997 Tom’s work was acquired by two more major museums: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 2020, Tom’s work can be seen in The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Los Angeles, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York, and The Art Institute of Chicago. Actively promoted by the Foundation, Tom’s work is increasingly being shown in galleries worldwide. A well-received exhibition at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles, California in 2015 established this cutting edge gallery as the official representative for sales of Tom’s work in the contemporary art world.
The Foundation is a nonprofit organization, a 501(c)(3) Educational Archive: #95-406-5795, supported by donations from the public, various fund-raising events and dues from its loyal membership. The men and women who support our efforts and goals dedicate themselves both financially and as volunteers enabling the Foundation to present an impressive number of activities on a limited budget.
Tom of Finland Company exists as a separate entity from the Foundation. The Company was first established by Tom and Durk to oversee the publication of his work and to eliminate widespread piracy of his images. In order to further the goal of supporting both Tom’s art and the art of other erotic artists, the Company initiated and funded Tom of Finland Foundation.
The Foundation has produced three Tom of Finland Retrospectives. The third volume features the finest representation of his work yet with a foreword by noted photographer Bruce Weber and an essay by former Whitney Museum curator Richard Marshall.
In recent years, the Foundation has rapidly expanded its Permanent Collection through donations of all manner of erotic artworks, by artists of all genders and sexual orientations.
In addition, a growing archive of images by other artists to complement the extensive one of Tom’s work is always in progress. These archives provide an invaluable resource to curators, students, art historians and collectors.
To support and encourage emerging erotic artists the Foundation produces a competition which provides exhibition of their work, publicity and awards. The promotion and sale of both new and established artists is facilitated through exhibitions at TOM House. The work represented ranges from unknown to established artists and has exceeded expectations in providing a place to expand the commercial value and exposure of erotic art.
The Foundation hosts social events throughout the year to raise funds and to provide a sense of community for supporters of erotic art. An example is the annual TOM’s Bar which promotes and exhibits erotic art in a very popular party setting and raises funds to support the Foundation’s activities at the same time. The annual Tom of Finland Art and Culture Festival brings together artists and patrons from many parts of the globe. It provides them with a social environment in which to network, opportunities to explore the archives and most importantly, the opportunity to buy and sell works at the two-day art fair.
Tom of Finland Foundation (ToFF) is dedicated to protect, preserve, document and educate the public about erotic art and erotic artists. ToFF shall continue to encourage the work of erotic visual artists regardless of race, creed, religion, gender, sexual identity, medium of expression or any other censoring criteria.
In a tradition that goes back 1,000 years, “pillow books” were given to couples at marriage to teach them how to pleasure each other.
Silk pillow painting, early Twentieth Century, 11″ x 11 1/2″, donated to the permanent collection by Cathie Bagwell.
An example of the new work the Foundation supports and exhibits through its Emerging Erotic Artist Competitions.
Aaron Holliday, Gay Hunter, 1997, 19″ x 24″, graphite on paper, on loan to the Foundation.
The Foundation archives include all types of art including this 1950s era physique photograph.
Al Urban, 1952, 8″ x 10″ photograph, donated to the permanent collection by the Doan Family Foundation.
What we do
Hard to believe that our beloved Tom was born 100 years ago. His legacy of unique, sexy, homo erotic art work lives on and continues to inspire countless art lovers throughout the world, due in part to the ongoing work of TOM’s Foundation.
As we enter this landmark year #TOMs100, the Foundation has been reviewing the public programs we offer and income received from the public in the form of donations and memberships to support these programs. The Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity and is required to be both serving the public and supported by the public.
The original mission of the Foundation since its inception in 1984 has been to preserve TOM’s vast catalog of work. That mission was expanded and the Foundation now offers a safe haven for all erotic art.
Today, the Foundation offers public programming. Approximately 80% of the Foundation’s budget goes to providing public services. The financial support that the Foundation receives from the public is considerably less then these programming expenses.
Although the Foundation licenses Tom’s images and name to various enterprises, including book publishers, income from sales provides just a small portion of the total funds needed to support TOM’s Foundation. In addition, licensed products help promote Tom’s art work and keep his legacy alive in society.
We can not do this work without continued support from individuals and members like you.
What you can do to help
A Note from the President
Continued support from individuals such as you is crucial to the Foundation’s survival and continued growth. Visible community support will greatly aid our volunteers in attracting corporate contributions and successfully applying for grants. Every dollar contributed and new membership will ensure the future protection of your right to view whatever art you choose.
Donations of all sizes are always welcome, including networking with your friends and business contacts to encourage further support. Donations can be earmarked for specific purposes, such as our Marcello Lupetti Artist Fund.
The Foundation’s greatest sustenance, however, comes from our loyal members and volunteers.
Only by having a committed and active membership can we feel secure that our promise to uphold the goals of the Foundation will be sustained for posterity. Multiple levels of membership are available so that everyone may participate.
Aside from providing support, members create a sense of community and camaraderie with others who share their interests. As a member you will receive the Foundation’s eNews newsletter which will keep you informed of all Foundation activities and events with articles on a wide range of erotic artists, updates on new acquisitions to our permanent collection and our ever increasing library of international erotic artists past and present. Members also receive discounts on event admissions and Tom of Finland merchandise.
Finally, with our growing roster of activities, volunteers are more important than ever. In the future we hope to expand our activities to new areas throughout the world. All volunteers are welcome and will find whatever work they may be asked to do stimulating and a great way to socialize and network. We especially need volunteers with specialized skills in marketing, fund-raising, design, gallery installation, art history/archiving and museum studies.
As a founder of Tom of Finland Foundation, I want to give you my personal assurance that our dedication to the cause of preserving erotic art and educating the general public as to its importance is both intense and unending. I look forward to working together with you and the many others who will help strengthen and expand the vision Tom and I had, into the future.
– Durk Dehner