The Artist Tom of Finland – His Story to be Told on Film as Masterfully as He Drew

Tom of Finland work titled "Perfection" from 1990

Tom of Finland work titled “Perfection” Copyright 1990 Tom of Finland Foundation

The Tom of Finland Foundation, based in Los Angeles, CA announced that Helsinki-filmi, the innovative Finnish production company, has asked it to do a feature about Tom of Finland. Helsinki-filmi has demonstrated enormous respect for the artist who started the Foundation that bears his name.

The Helsinki-filmi biopic will be the first feature-length portrait of Tom of Finland’s influential life and career, and everyone involved has committed to crafting it the way that would make Tom proud.

“Every project we’ve seen from this esteemed company has consistently impressed us with its creativity. The production team has a full grasp of the layers of the subject matter they take on,” says Durk Dehner, president and cofounder of Tom of Finland Foundation.

Tom’s real name is Touko Laaksonen, he was born on May 8th, 1920 and “May” in Finnish is “Toukokuu.” He lived and worked in Helsinki and later Los Angeles. He died in 1991 and was involved in two documentaries made about him during his lifetime (Boots, Biceps and Bulges: The Life and Works of Tom of Finland, 1988 and Daddy and the Muscle Academy, 1991).

From the perspective of art historians, Tom of Finland’s homo-erotic work has had an effect on global culture unmatched by that of virtually any other artist: influencing lifestyle, political tolerance, music, design, fashion and art. Tom’s work has a defining impact on the way Homosexuals throughout the world are perceived and more importantly, how they perceive themselves.

Producer Aleksi Bardy has won awards at the Brussels International Film Festival and the Jussi Awards, and has teamed with acclaimed and much-admired director Dome Karukoski for the new biopic on Tom of Finland. The artist and his work have always been appreciated by a grass-roots audience. “Now, with Helsinki-filmi collaboration, Tom’s messages of equality and freedom will be shared with even wider audiences,” says Dehner. 

TOM’s works have been bootlegged, both by the well-intentioned and by profiteers, yet Tom gave the use of his work freely to other nonprofits, AIDS organizations and his much-loved club in Finland, MSC Finland, fondly named, “TOM’s Club.” The Foundation continues Tom’s wishes and sisters with the newly formed Tom of Finland Seura, a society to preserve, protect and promote Touko Laaksonen within his home country.

Tom of Finland portrait, 1984

Tom of Finland portrait, 1984

S. R. Sharp, curator of Tom of Finland Foundation assures, “Yes, Touko was a man, and anyone who knew him, knew him as a great man. Aleksi and Dome have shown genuine sensitivity knowing that TOM is internationally revered as a liberator and is a real hero to many.”

The Tom of Finland Foundation has been instrumental is placing artwork in facilities around the world, from Touko’s hometown of Kaarina, Finland to Turku and Helsinki, Finland; to London’s Institute of Contemporary Art; New York’s Museum of Modern Art; and now Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art. They have participated in the publication of numerous titles on Tom of Finland by both small presses and international publishing houses TASCHEN and Bruno Gmuender.

Sharp emphasizes, “The phenomenon of TOM is that his drawings are appreciated in bedrooms and backrooms, boot shops and bars. They are also treasured on the brightly-lit walls of museums and the bookshelves of university libraries. His appeal is universal.”

By his design, Touko left his artwork, his personal effects and his intellectual property to his Foundation so that they would be looked after wisely – allowing TOM’s legacy to live on. Dehner says, “Helsinki-filmi understands the responsibility of telling Touko’s story and is now a part of TOM’s heritage.”

Casting of an international actor will be announced by Helsinki-filmi in early 2014 and the film will start shooting in December 2014 in Finland, Germany and North America. Tom of Finland Foundation has encouraged the collaboration of other filmmakers and creatives for this project.

In 1984, the nonprofit Tom of Finland Foundation, “TOM’s Foundation”, was established by Touko Laaksonen aka Tom of Finland and his friend Durk Dehner. Tom had established worldwide recognition as the master of homo-erotic art and the scope was widened to offer a safe haven for all erotic art in response to rampant discrimination against art that portrays sexual behavior or generates a sexual response. TOM’s Foundation continues in its efforts of guiding artists and educating the public as to the cultural merits of erotic art and in promoting healthier, more tolerant attitudes about sexuality.

One of the primary goals of the Foundation is to promote art so that it receives the academic attention it deserves. From a critical perspective, thanks in part to the sustained commitment of the Foundation, artwork that depicts sexuality is finally receiving the acknowledgment it merits and is increasingly being shown in blue-chip galleries and published in texts worldwide.

The Foundation is a nonprofit organization, a 501(c)(3) Educational Archive: #95-406-5795, supported by donations from the public, various fundraising events and dues from its loyal membership. The men and women who support their efforts and goals dedicate themselves both financially and as volunteers enabling TOM’s organization to present an impressive number of activities on a limited budget.

The Foundation hosts social events throughout the year to raise funds and to provide a sense of community for fans of TOM and supporters of art. They provide art fairs, a competition for emerging artists, salons and workshops. Headquartered in TOM House in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Tom of Finland library and archives serve both researchers and eager visitors.

Written by Dave Rhodes

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