Tom of Finland Erotic Art Foundation

TOM OF
FINLAND

THE
FOUNDATION

EROTIC ART
GALLERIES

EXHIBITIONS
& EVENTS

ARTIST &
MUSEUM LINKS


HOME


Reuters article

Assets: Erotica, Moving Mainstream, Stirs Art Market
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=4360044
Sat February 14, 2004 04:15 PM ET
By Richard Chang

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Erotic art is stepping out of the closet into museums and galleries, as a growing mass of collectors are openly enjoying and willing to pay top dollar for the aesthetic and sensual thrills of previously forbidden fruit.

"There's a realization that art can be sexy and erotic and you can show it in your home. It's becoming more permissible," said Allena Gabosch, director of The Wet Spot, a not-for-profit group that organizes the annual Seattle Erotic Arts Festival (seattleerotic.org). "I find great pleasure in art that affects all of my senses."

More and more people seem to agree, judging from the festival's attendance, which doubled to 4,000 in its second annual show in the first weekend of February -- timed to usher in Valentine's Day. On display were 500 works priced from $40 to $10,000, by 187 artists from 10 countries.

Photo-realistic paintings of pin-up fantasy women by Hajime Sorayama (sorayama.net) sell for as much as $25,000, while those of Olivia De Berardinis (eolivia.com) go for up to $75,000.

"We're moving into a renaissance in that the number of artists producing erotica is growing," said Durk Dehner, director of the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles (http://www.tomoffinlandfoundation.org).

The nonprofit group was founded in 1984 to preserve and promote the work of homoerotic Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, who signed his drawings "Tom of Finland" when he started submitting them to American muscle magazines in 1956. The group's mission now extends to erotic art of all persuasions.

It's a far cry from when "forbidden art" was hidden away or published only in the underground press. Tom's fantasy sketches, featuring incredibly well-endowed masculine gay men, are now on permanent display in museums in Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Helsinki, Finland. Controversial gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe has also become an icon.

With this change in status, a Tom of Finland sketch that cost $350 in 1978 now sells for $12,000, Dehner said. Even so, a 21-inch wide 1989 poster of his is available at the foundation's Web site for as low as $20.

"We're on the edge of where erotic works will probably start increasing at faster rates," Dehner said, noting they are now perceived as fine art. "If people can feel that something is held in high regard, they're more comfortable with it."

The difference between art and pornography is clear to "Miss Naomi," who has acquired 4,000 museum-quality works worth millions of dollars (missnaomi.com) over 12 years.

"Pornography gives you one message -- Let's get it on, let's have sex," said the author of "Forbidden Art: The World of Erotica" and "Visions of Erotica" (Schiffer, schifferbooks.com). "Erotic art engages you in a thoughtful process. It's an interpretation about it, the talent, the unusual or beautiful way the art is displayed."

Among her notable artifacts is a 31-inch-long white fiberglass phallic sculpture used as a murder weapon in the movie "Clockwork Orange." Miss Naomi, who paid $3,000 for it in 2000, has it insured for $15,000. She estimates that many items have tripled or quadrupled in value since she bought them.

Paintings and sketches by Etienne, who was strongly influenced by Tom of Finland, now sell for 10 times their value in the 1970s, said Pet Silvia, who runs Art (at) Large, an erotic figurative art gallery in New York (http://www.artatlarge.com).

Among contemporary works, those of John John Jesse, whose Catholic-themed paintings cross over into the "lowbrow" category, have nearly tripled in value over the last 18 months, said Silvia, a self-described "heterosexual drag queen."

"Believe it or not, it's through word of mouth. We're dealing with an inventory of his that we can't keep in the house long enough," he said.

Nude paintings on wood by Frances Turner, of less-than-perfect human subjects, have also escalated in value since the British artist died of a brain tumor last July at age 38, Silvia said. "She found beauty in everyone, whether they were heavily tattooed, obese, an amputee."

"Mainstream" artists are finding their way into the market as well. Jeff Hengst (hengst.com), largely known for his painting commissioned by the Seattle Space Needle, showed his edgier works at the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival, priced as high as $10,000.

"We're moving toward becoming more comfortable with human sexuality, so that those artists creating (erotic art) will have a lot more vehicles to showcase their work," said Dehner of the Tom of Finland Foundation.

As a result of these changes, "now is a very good time to purchase erotic art," he said. "It's my feeling that, in the next 5 to 10 years, it's going to break and make much deeper inroads into the mainstream."       
Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.

TOM OF
FINLAND

THE
FOUNDATION

EROTIC ART
GALLERIES

EXHIBITIONS
& EVENTS

ARTIST &
MUSEUM LINKS


HOME


TOM OF FINLAND FOUNDATION 2003