Durk Dehner’s life’s work is to nurture Tom of Finland’s world-changing art

21st November 2023, 7:18 am


Photo: Anton Hämäläinen


The cofounder & president of Tom of Finland Foundation received the knighthood of the Order of the Lion of Finland in the spring of 2023 for his work.


All that remains of the letters sent to Tom of Finland are thousands of stamped stamps. “He burned everything in case there were difficult times ahead,” Tom of Finland Foundation Cofounder & Presidence Durk Dehner tells Kiasma. Tom of Finland’s big exhibition of Gay erotic art, Bold Journey, is on display there.

Tom understood that the world is not moving steadily towards the better. Sometimes there can be a back tracking. “Consider the abortion laws in the United States. Or how the Transgender community has been treated.”

According to Dehner, Tom wanted to protect the people who wrote to him even in the 1980s-1990s, even when the social and legal status of homosexuality had become much better than it had been in his youth, when people were imprisoned or sent to treatment for homosexuality. In Nazi Germany, a one-way trip to a concentration camp was offered.


Tom of Finland’s pictures showed everyone how love and lust between men can be joyful and free.


The world has not completely changed. There are many countries where, in the opinion of those in power, a wrong sexual identity can lead to death, either officially by the state or by active citizens. And still, sexual and gender minorities have an increased risk of suicide.

“A young man that Tom and I knew told us how his father, a Pentecostal pastor in a small country town, used to say that Gay blood is better used as paint on the side of a barn than flowing in Gay veins. In such a childhood home, this young man grew up and tried not to kill himself.”

That makes for a hellishly long trip to the Pride march for a homosexual. But that’s where we get to the shocking core of Tom of Finland.

It is no exaggeration to say that Tom of Finland, born in Kaarina to a teacher couple in 1920, changed the world in a fundamental way. In his erotic art – which Tom himself used to modestly call “dirty pictures” and which at first spread to the world as individual pictures in discreet envelopes – men look at each other good-naturedly, even gently, with huge penises in their hands. And in the ass, or in the mouth.

Finlayson’s neat sheets and stamps don’t really have the most pornographic images printed on them.

Tom of Finland’s pictures showed everyone how love and lust between men can be joyful and free. There is no need to be ashamed or hide it. “His influence was rooted in Western culture, permeated it. People don’t even really understand how huge an upheaval it was.”








TOM OF FINLAND “Bold Journey”

28th Apr 2023 – 29th Oct 2023 @ All Day –           Viewing hours Tuesday–Friday 10a-8:30p Saturday 10a–6p Sunday 10a–5p Closed Monday   Showcasing the works and life story of Tom of Finland, one of the world’s best-known Finnish artists. Masculine beauty The characters in Tom of Finland’s drawings – lumberjacks, bikers, soldiers and policemen – exude vitality, joy and pride. Their […]

Published: 21st November 2023

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