Tom of Finland Exhibition Bold Journey Fills Kiasma with Masculine Beauty

Tom of Finland is one of the most recognized Finnish artists in the world, renowned for his signature style and iconic images. The exhibition, opening on 28th of April in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki highlights Tom of Finland’s artistic mastery, establishing him as a major figure in 20th century contemporary art and visual culture. 

The exhibition presents works from Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles together with works from the collection of Finnish National Gallery. There are also works from Finnish and international public and private collections in the exhibition. Alongside drawings, the exhibition features archive material, Tom’s personal clothing and memorabilia, letters, publications, magazines, films, and a new VR experience produced by Donkey Hotel. The experience immerses the viewer into the rooms of 1421 Laveta Terrace, better known as TOM House, the former residence of Tom of Finland in Los Angeles, where he mastered his artwork and lived over the last decade of his life.

The exhibition’s narrative employs the biography of Tom of Finland (born Touko Valio Laaksonen, 8 May 1920 – 7 November 1991) as a guiding thread in examining six decades of his practice. It uses different moments and settings from Laaksonen’s early life in Finland, such as his rural upbringing, military service, his move to the city, post-war period and his numerous travels in Europe and the USA. Tom’s characters such as the logger, biker, white collar worker, serviceman or police officer, denote an engagement with uniforms and gear in a playful manner that subverts conventional behaviours and defies expectations.

“I consistently represent masculine beauty. Of course I do exaggerate the muscles and genitals, for this is what makes it a dream.” -Tom of Finland, from Sex Press, La Martiniere, 2012

The fantasy situations depicted by Tom of Finland project a world of enjoyment and pride, which then and now opposes conceptions of non-normative or non-confirming identities bearing guilt or shame. The exhibition contextualises the artist’s work within wider narratives, linking directly to the history of the international LGBTQI+ movement and culture.

By collapsing fixed conceptions of dominance and compliance, the playfulness of the stories and their protagonists signals Tom of Finland’s ongoing relevance and echo key dynamics active today related to fluid identities. The exhibition is joined by Dreamy, a queer hang of the Museum’s collection, aiming at underlining the continuities between past and present practices dealing with LGBTQI+ identities, historicizing recent practices and signaling Tom of Finland’s pioneering agency.

The exhibition is curated by Museum Director Leevi Haapala and Chief Curator of Exhibitions João Laia with an illustrated publication collecting newly commissioned texts and pre-existing writings translated for the first time into English as well as excerpts from one of the last interviews Tom of Finland gave.

Kiasma thanks all the lenders listed here and anonymous ones, who made this exhibition possible: Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles; MOCA -The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles / Gift of Tom of Finland Foundation; SFMoMA – San Francisco Museum of Modern Art / Gift of Tom Nicoll; City of Kaarina, Galerie Judin, Berlin; Susanna Luoto Collection; Michele Barbati Collection, Los Angeles; Collection of John Morace & Tom Kennedy, Los Angeles; Collection of Mark Grotjahn, Los Angeles; Miettinen Collection, Berlin-Helsinki; MSC Finland – Tom’s Club, Helsinki; Seppo Fränti, Helsinki; Tuomo Niemelä, Helsinki; Graham Steele & Ulysses de Santi, Los Angeles; Jori Svärd, Helsinki; Arto Winter, Stockholm; Beth Rudin DeWoody, West Palm Beach; and private collectors.

Tom of Finland  – Bold Journey 

Information for media:   

Leevi Haapala, Museum Director, 
João Laia, Chief Curator,  

Kiasma Communications: 

Piia Laita,, + 358 294 500 507 
Kiira Koskela,, + 358 50 47 86 861  

Press images: