► Touko Laaksonen (1920–1991), aka Tom of Finland, is Finland’s most internationally acclaimed artist. He created a gallery of male types that retain fresh relevance from generation to generation as part of a timeless cultural iconography. Not only are his homoerotic fantasy drawings celebrated as enduring icons of gay subcultures and communities, but today they are also recognized by a growing audience of art lovers. His highly aestheticized, technically immaculate drawings have exerted a worldwide influence in fashion, design and culture trends.
“One man’s porn has become everyone’s art,” comments Kiasma Museum Director Leevi Haapala in his essay, which follows the career of the Kaarina-born, Helsinki-based advertising executive and musician who went on to achieve worldwide artistic fame. Haapala’s essay is accompanied by a biography compiled by researcher Kati Mustola and an essay by curator João Laia, who uses the trope of cruising to discuss the sense of community, joy and pride engendered by Tom’s characters. Researcher Harri Kalha sheds light on how Tom’s originally hyper-Finnish masculine types embarked on their world conquest, leading them all the way to Los Angeles, where Tom’s namesake foundation is based today. Curator Alvin Li’s essay in turn examines the radicalism, hypermasculinity and fetishism of Tom’s drawings.
The richly illustrated book presents Tom of Finland’s art from the 1950s until the end of his career, and it coincides with an extensive exhibition hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Among the featured articles is a comprehensive biographical interview published in Prätkäposti (Biker Mail) magazine in 1990 to mark the occasion of the artist’s 70th birthday. In this interview, the artist speaks in his own voice, sharing insights into the thematic background of his homoerotic imagery. The interview also holds documentary value in charting the internationalization of gay culture and the evolving status of gender minorities in Finland’s then-reigning cultural hegemony.