The first major UK exhibition by late Finnish artist will include unseen works by the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles
In March 2020, at the House of Illustration in London, the artist Tom of Finland will receive an exhibition, the first major solo show dedicated to the late Finnish pioneer in the UK.
Tom of Finland (aka Touko Valio Laaksonen) is best known for his extremely homoerotic portrayals of hyper-masculine men clad in biker leather gear, inspiring a generation of gay men with their bulging muscles and jutting jawlines.
The next exhibition will explore how Tom of Finland circumnavigated legal restrictions prior to Finland’s 1971 decriminalization of homosexuality.
For example, by drawing scenes of men fighting as a way to show physical contact between the depicted well-down figures.
Olivia Ahmad, curator of the show. who brings together about 40 works from 1961 to 1988, says Tom’s work was “significant for both gay culture and pop culture”.
Many previously unseen works are going to come from the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles.
“Something we’re working on with the foundation is representing how versatile Tom was as an artist, and so as well as showing the kind of monochromatic works in pencil that have become his signature, we will have some more stylised works, works in colour and linocuts,” Ahmad says.
“The exhibition will look at the significance of these images in gay culture, and will also consider the influence of Tom’s figures on pop culture and fashion, examining the way he showed men in police uniform for example, which was of course very subversive,” she added.


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