Gallery: Fotografiska hosts Tom of Finland exhibition

Tallinn photo gallery Fotografiska is hosting an exhibition of artwork by Tom of Finland, the noted homoerotic Finnish artist.

The exhibition, entitled "The Darkroom" opens an unknown side of Tom of Finland's art, Fotografiska said in a press release Friday, showcasing his photography as well as his more well-known signature sketches, in what would have been the year of his 100th birthday.

Tom of Finland, real name Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), was a draughtsman, whose subjects often explored excessively masculine, attractive, confident macho-men with extreme swelling muscles and other bodily aspects, dressed in various uniform, leather and rubber gay porn fetish garb, according to the press release.

Tom garnered a cult following within Finland's gay community, and beyond - Tom spent much time in Los Angeles - at a time when homosexuality was still a criminal offence in that country.

His photo portraits stem from fairly early on in his career and were developed in his own home darkroom, with output frequently consisting of several references from several different photographs, often of friends and acquaintances of the artist.

One collaboration saw Tom and U.S. photographer and artist Robert Mapplethorpe taking each other's pictures, photos that Tom later used to construct Mapplethorpe's portrait. 

Exhibition curator Berndt Arell describes the work as an inspiring journey that is given longing a face, one of showing one's desire, of being acknowledged and not having to hide who one is.


"Without the photographs I don't think there would have been a Tom of Finland," Arell says.

"With the help of his friend Wiki, care was taken to bring the photographs over to Tom's House in Los Angeles – a museum/gallery which, besides his own work, exhibits other homoerotic art.

Arell created one of the first Tom of Finland exhibitions in the early 2000s as he, Tom, moved into the mainstream of art.

Tom/Laaksonen studied advertising in Helsinki during the late 1930s/1940s, as well as piano and composition at the Sibelius Academy later on.

He also worked as a restaurant and theater pianist, and art director, in the Finnish capital.

"The Darkroom" exhibition is open in Fotografiska Tallinn from Saturday, February 21 till Sunday, April 19. The exhibition's opening will be marked with classic Tallinn music night Mutant Disco, joined by Horse Meat Disco.

Fotografiska's website is here.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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