Once maligned as merely a gay pornographer or merely an illustrator, Tom Of Finland, the creative nickname of Touko Laaksonen, is entering a major reappraisal with a new exhibition at Galerie Judin in Berlin. His work, mostly comprising drawings of nude or partially nude men with exaggerated genitalia, has led him to be called one of the biggest influences on 20th century gay culture.
Running until 15 April, the exhibition is titled Ecce Homo – The Preliminary Drawings. As the title suggests, it will focus on his earlier work as he was still struggling for recognition. They show a persistence and a love for the male form, even when others weren’t quite so keen. For example, at his first exhibition in Hamburg in 1973, all but one of his drawings were stolen. Nevertheless, through his friendship with the radical Robert Mapplethorpe and the patronage of Durk Dehner, Tom Of Finland was able to increase his image, in the process raising the stature of homoerotic art in popular culture.
Along with Raymond Pettibon’s new exhibition at the New Museum, it is clear that illustration is finally entering the realm of high art, worthy of being shown alongside paintings, photography and sculpture. In conjunction with art that celebrates the male form, this is an exhibition to be very excited about.
“Ecce Homo – The Preliminary Drawings” is on display at Berlin’s Galerie Judin until 15 April 2017
All images courtesy of the artist