Date(s) - 30th Apr 2021 - 20th Aug 2021
11:00 am - 9:00 pm
Fotografiska New York
The exhibition consists of photographic portraits which served as reference images for his famed homoerotic drawings. These photographs were confined to Tom of Finland’s home studio and darkroom, displaying them elsewhere would have risked a prison sentence, as homosexuality was criminalized and classified as a mental disorder in his native Finland at the time of this work. Even after a century of Tom of Finland’s birth, there are forces today trying to relegate homosexual desire into dark closets.
Tom of Finland, with his desire and skill, positively portrayed and drew masculine, attractive, confident men in homoerotic poses – dressed in uniforms, leather, rubber and fetish gear – thoroughly challenging contemporary society. At the same time, he was highly regarded by queer folk and members of the Leather/Fetish community. Curator Berndt Arell shares:
This never before shown treasure trove of images gives a deeper insight into how his skillfully drawn super-macho men were created. Each drawing could consist of several references from several different photographs. The drawings show the men always full of confidence, and always ready, since Tom of Finland’s art, for him, wasn’t about problematising, but about desire and the right to express it.
Tom of Finland is celebrated internationally for his prolific and positive portrayal of confident gay men. His representational subjects are masculine, attractive, endowed with pronounced muscles and genitalia, and often dressed in uniforms or leather gear. His depictions of queer culture thoroughly challenged contemporary society, and solidified his place as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.
TOM OF FINLAND The Darkroom | TOM OF FINLAND The Official Life and Work of a Gay Hero
On the occasion of the artist’s birth this exhibition focuses on Tom’s photographs, in combination with his drawings, showing his artistic process.
“Tom of Finland is regarded as a role model in the fight for a more equal and fair world. He contributed to the sense of pride that became a major force in the early gay movement. Tom’s men are proud, happy and confident. They take and they give. They broaden the vocabulary of who queers can be, not defined by society, but by self. His artistry is also unique in that it crosses so many borders – it has spread far beyond the subculture for which it was created. Today we can see its influence in everything from fashion to identity politics.” —Berndt Arell, curator
Tom took a correspondence course with a marketing and advertising school during the late 1930s and into the mid 1940s, and studied piano and composition at the Sibelius Academy during the 1940s, as well. He also worked as a pianist for restaurants, schools and theatres in Helsinki, as an art director at McCann Helsinki until 1973, and as a full-time artist thereafter.
Published: 30th April 2021
Categorised in: Exhibitions - TOM