Untitled, 1974 © Tom of Finland, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection

Hailing Tom of Finland’s works is the British center for illustration and graphic art House of Illustration, celebrating likewise championing illustration from around the world through a rich and ample history of advocating emerging talent. Born under the name of Touko Laaksonen, Tom of Finland was an artist who delved into the erotic sphere of art, with first drawings published in 1957 (a time when the now-renowned “Tom of Finland” was born). The creative tycoon treasures over 3,5000 illustrations during his lifetime, that subverted homoerotic art radically, burgeoning a bold influence on LGBTQ+ and popular culture.

Untitled, from ‘Sex on the Train’, 1974 © Tom of Finland, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection

March 6, 2020, sees House of Illustration breaching its gateways to a UK’s first solo public show entirely dedicated to the gay icon, co-aided by Tom of Finland’s Foundation and the Finnish Institute in London. The judicious exhibition will de-canonize the artist’s homoerotic visions which had an overwhelming effect on gay communities across Europe and North America, during a pivotal period in their history and continue to have an enormous influence on today’s collective hierarchies.

Untitled, from ‘The Tattooed Sailor’ series, 1962 © Tom of Finland, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection

Tom of Finland: Love and Liberation will showcase 40 main works on paper produced between the 1960s and the 1980s, epitomizing the before and after facades of homosexuality and its decriminalization in Europe and the U.S. The exhibition will feature early drawings of men fighting that constituted the only legal approach to show physical contact between men before decriminalization. Moreover, it will include illustrations from his iconic Kake comics and rare linocuts produced in very limited editions. A copious number of these works, on loan from the LA-based Tom of Finland Foundation, will be exhibited for the first time.

Corporate-akin by day, artist by night, Tom of Finland began drawing homoerotic fantasies by first debuting bodybuilding magazines in the U.S. signing them off with the pseudonym “Tom” in order to avoid censorship and ultimately, arrest. Public had only to look as far as sports or health magazines to look at Finland’s sumptuous, hyper-hunk masculine figures, while an underground audience could access his overt erotica via a network of sex shops and leather bars.

Untitled, from the ‘Sailor and the Cyclist’ series, 1963 © Tom of Finland, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection

His practice? Don’t take it “ad litteram”: Finland’s hyper-hunk-vibed male drawings explored the fetishization of the military uniform and law institutions, subverting the image