|TOM OF FINLAND FOUNDATION|
OVER A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.
|TOM INTO THE NEXT
by Durk Dehner
It started for me back in 1977 when I first met Tom and realized that he was in need of some assistance in managing and promoting his career. At the time Tom was doing well with his artistic development, having been represented in gallery exhibitions and widely published, yet on the business end he was not doing so well. His work was being pirated to the extent that he was not making a living from his prolific body of work. Although I had no experience in the art business or marketing, between my devotion to the work and Tom's talent, we were successful in starting both the Tom of Finland Company and soon after the Foundation.
The exhibition in Finland attracted a very diverse crowd and included memorabilia such as this motrocycle and Tom's boots
The present situation is remarkable both for how far Tom's art has come since those days, and how far it and all erotic art still has to go. The Foundation has been striving for years to get Tom's art the critical recognition it deserves. Ironically the gay community has been surprisingly slow to embrace the work as `serious' art, perhaps because they find the subject matter so stimulating they don't appreciate its inherent artistry. Or perhaps the politically correct worry that Tom's more explicit subjects will be too shocking for straight viewers and cast a bad light on the `Gay' agenda. Of course the opposite is true since Tom's work so clearly depicts that man-to-man sex can be joyous and healthy as opposed to all the obsolete negative stereotypes. Within the last few years, Tom's art is being embraced by museum and gallery curators around the world. In addition, over the past four years it is becoming clear that the attendance at exhibitions of Tom's work is becoming much more diverse. In my estimation, approximately 33% is now from the leather, uniform and general gay community, 20% from the established 40 years and older art community and 47% from the young alternative art community.
The Paris exhibition took the city by storm with a huge turnout at the opening; Below, Foundation President Durk Dehner (center) enjoys the hospitality of the Finnish Institute's Anna Vartainen (L), and Iris Schwanck (R)
Tom's philosophy that sex between men is just fine, and that sex in general is just a whole lot of fun, is now officially being embraced by the whole world. And we are all still learning that art can have overwhelming sexual content and still be as artistically rich as the masterpieces that traditionally are found in museums and galleries. So here is an impressive list of where we are now - all the recent exhibitions of Tom's work this year and on into the new Millennium.
The TBA Exhibition Facility in Chicago (producers of the Chicago Art Fair) exhibited a comprehensive retrospective of 100 works in March. Pori Taidmuseo in Finland showed 12 works of Tom's in a curated group exhibit titled RURALIA from June through August. YYZ Artists Outlet in Toronto, Canada exhibited 100 works from the Foundation in June and July. Jyvaskyla Art Museum in Finland produced The Most Famous Finn with 62 pieces in July and August. Also in July and August, the Foundation's own representative Mark Moore Gallery in Santa Monica exhibited Tom as part of the 4th Absolut Los Angeles Biennial. The James Van Damme Gallery in Brussels staged a show including work from the Foundation plus work for sale ending on September 11.
Opening on September 8th, the Finnish
Cultural Institute of Paris, France hosts a
month-long exhibition. The Cabinet Gallery
in London will open a show in January that runs through
spring 2000 with some work for sale. Finally, plan
to see Tom's work loaned from the Foundation at the
prestigious Los Angeles County Museum of Art's
Made in California exhibit in October, 2000.
An uninhibited crowd enjoys the Toronto exhibition; Show organizer Kelly McCray (2nd from left) reaps the rewards of his work; Don Zale recreates his original pose for Tom. TORONTO PHOTOS BY CHERYL RONDEAU
This picture of the house where Tom of Finland grew up and drew his first cartoons was sent to us from MSC Finland, Tom's motorcycle club, who discovered it on a recent tour of Tom's hometown
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“The abstract, especially in those rough sketches, is very important to me, perhaps because of my advertising background, where layout is so important. Sometimes those first few lines cut the paper into such satisfying shapes that I don’t want to go on, but I always do, adding nostrils and nipples and bootstraps until I have filled the paper up as usual.” — Tom of Finland