In 2008 the largest retrospective exhibition of Tom of Finland’s artwork ever shown in the UK, was displayed in the Contemporary Urban Centre, Liverpool, as part of that year’s Homotopia Festival.
‘Tom of Finland’ was born Touko Laaksonen. He made his name in the 1950s when his portraits depicting hyper-masculine men began to appear in American Physique magazines, publications which had a largely gay audience. By the 1970s he was able to live off the sales of his artworks which ranged from having homoerotic undertones to full gay eroticism. Much of his artwork challenged the popular feminine stereotypes of gay men, often showing gay men as highly muscular with large crotch bulges in uniform and clothing associated with very masculine jobs, activities, and sub-cultures such as policemen, bikers, and lumberjacks.
Tom of Finland’s art work arguably went on to produce, or at least heavily influence the later stereotype of the hyper-masculine gay man associated so prominently with gay men in the 1980s.
“His contribution to the improvement of the self-esteem and self-respect of the whole gay community is widely seen as irreplaceable” - Sofia Pöyhönen, Embassy of Finland, 2008