east coast — west
coast — europe — 2006
by durk dehner
It is an exciting time for me to see so many of the dreams
I have for the Foundation come true. I am grateful for the trust and
support you have given me to lead this organization. I have strived
to keep Tom’s and other erotic art expressions very visible in
the world. We are celebrating 21 years of being a nonprofit, and especially
the acknowledgement of Tom of Finland’s work being included into
the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Some of Tom’s masterpieces are featured in a traveling exhibition.
In each new city the exhibit takes on different characteristics and
inspires me to seek out additional venues where the art can be appreciated.
Tom memorabilia at
Tom of Finland: Rough.
photo by Durk Dehner
On May 17, 2006 we held a cocktail reception in Manhattan
to celebrate Tom of Finland: Coming of Age, a 21-piece exhibition
of extraordinary drawings. This evening’s event was only made
possible through the focused efforts of three remarkable New York City
men: Gary Robinson, Mark Nelson, and Brian Crede who all cochaired the
gala exposition with the generosity of the host venue, the Charles Cowles
I felt it would be interesting to ask each curator the process they
used in selecting the works for their respective shows. The guidelines
were that there had to be 21 of Tom’s works that were representative
of the Foundation’s Permanent Collection.
Tony Payne, who has been an archivist at the Tom of Finland Foundation
for the past ten years, was invited to be the curator for the Foundation’s
Coming of Age exhibition:
Having spent a great deal of time organizing and storing
the Foundation’s archive of Tom’s drawings, I found the
opportunity to curate a show of 21 works to celebrate the Coming
of Age anniversary an exciting challenge, daunting only in the
sheer number of amazing pieces to choose from.
We tried to show as diverse a range of Tom’s work as possible:
drawings from all different eras, stunning color examples, never before
seen work, loose fluid preliminary sketches and tight completed finished
drawings. Some dark and moody, some examples with hard sexual content,
iconic solo figures and, above all, Tom’s characteristic intense
camaraderie — even tenderness — depicted between men.
Judith Rothschild Foundation’s trustee Harvey S.
Shipley Miller and curator Andre Schlechtriem also curated what is most
likely the largest collection of works on paper done at anytime in the
last century — gifting it to the MoMA. Included in this gift were
five Tom of Finland drawings purchased at The Miami Art Exhibition through
Western Project’s Cliff Benjamin — whose gallery is the
official international representative of Tom of Finland’s artwork.
Harvey expressed to the attendees that, “Tom of Finland was one
of the most influential artists of the last century. As an artist he
was superb, but as an influence he was transcendent.”
As masterful as these [pieces] are, people say that
the subject is not the object of the picture. But in narrative and
representational art, the subject is very much a part of the story....
The point is that Tom of Finland was the path for this whole generation
[of modern artists].
It was also revealed to the revelers that the 22nd piece
hanging on the gallery wall was a work of Tom’s that was not included
in the gifting — not just yet. Harvey told the audience that this
piece was truly a “masterwork”. It would be held by the
Rothschild Foundation until MoMA was ready to receive such a graphic
image. “It is all about the timing,” he said.
And so the Coming of Age exhibition arrived at home base
to be prepared for its next public display. It was the backbone of finished
works that would be presented along with Tom’s preliminary studies.
Tom of Finland: Rough appeared at Western Project Culver City,
Los Angeles from July 29 - September 9, 2006. Cliff Benjamin notes of
Since 1997, I have worked with Tom’s drawings
nearly every day, either showing works to clients or researching images
and dates, or anything related. The profundity of his art has grown
immeasurably in my mind and I now see many of its oddly subtle elements.
There is so much history and nuance documented by his hand; describing
the way men interacted with one another in a variety of ways —
be it erotic, intimate, or predatory. I see his work as boldly unapologetic,
un-PC, and wholly honest.
memorabilia at Rough.
photo by Durk Dehner
Never considering his drawings as fine art, Tom worked
outside the traditional art world, obsessed with his vision of pleasure
and erotic freedom. His work is an indictment of the male libido –
aggressive, relentless, and playful - consumed with the possibilities
of Eros. The images are heroic, iconoclastic, flushed with testosterone
and humor. His work exemplifies a rare clarity, achieved by the single
focus of imagination and the consistent practice of craft by an artist.
His mastery of drawing formidably illuminates his love of the male
form, akin to Picasso’s obsession with women, and Russ Meyer’s
awe of the feminine figure.
It has been my pleasure to curate an exhibition which fully exposes
Tom’s facility and ingenious hand as a draftsman. The purpose
is to show the preliminary drawings as the architecture of his work.
I have noticed through the years that many people get caught up in
Tom’s subject matter — something about size... —
and cannot appreciate what it takes to create such incredible pictures.
By emphasizing the preliminary drawings I want to show Tom’s
fluid and natural talent — he could draw anything at will. These
drawings document his process in creating an image, and how he made
decisions about composition, the shadow on a face, clothing, etcetera.
These are historic works that illuminate his complete
understanding of the human body and its dynamic potential as a vehicle
for storytelling or portraiture. Using works beginning in 1944, the
exhibition travels through the later decades of 20th century with
Tom at the helm, telling tales which raise an eyebrow, stiffen your
jeans or make us all laugh at the way men dream, desire and live.
And these small works are still controversial — curiously because
they are not ironic, angry or codified. The work is point blank straightforward;
it expresses a kind of willful abandon and freedom from the beginning,
to the end of his career. The preliminary drawings are a testament
to the consistency and authenticity of Tom as an artist — a
very rare thing, indeed.
Paris will also see the Coming of Age exhibition
at the Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard from December 2, 2006 -
January 5, 2007.
74 rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris, France
Phone: 33 (0)1 43 25 27 22
How about Berlin? Any ideas?