Today, there still seems conflict in the fact that the gentle ad man who worked on global campaigns during the 1950s, ’60s & ’70s, in one of the first global advertising agencies [McCann Helsinki], was the very same artist that gave homosexuality a new and liberated global identity.
This is why his collages, his reference material of over 600 pages of neatly composed cut outs from glossy magazines, are so key to a deeper understanding of his work. Exhibited this summer in their entirety for the first time, alongside over 200 drawings as part of the survey Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play, they are likely to further enhance the reputation of this fascinating man. As his work further evolves from a representation of underground fetish into a mainstream fetish all of its own, let us consider: was there always a sadomasochistic relationship at play between commercial culture and the sub culture?
By Stefan Kalmár