The Tom of Finland Foundation Opens a ‘Cheeky Exhibition’ With Diesel’s Support

With such a past archive to draw on, what is the exhibition’s curatorial perspective? 

Dehner: Choosing the artists taking part in the exhibition was a process between The Community, Diesel, and the TOF Foundation. What we’re trying to re-create here at the exhibition is the feeling of Tom’s house, an intimacy of being able to be with the work so you can have that intimate relationship. The 17 rooms in our home in Echo Park are filled with erotic art. We have people living there, we have artists in residence, we have gardens. It’s a sort of safe haven. 

The city of Los Angeles has made Tom’s house a Historic-Cultural Monument. They recognized the legacy of Tom’s gay activism. Tom came along at a time in the 1950s and started to draw very sex-positive homosexual men. The young, homosexual scene then turned into protests and true activism, demanding equality and rights. Tom’s art nurtured all that, helping the movement to grow. 

Being Finnish, Tom was very modest, but finally in his late 60s, he said: “Well, I have to admit that I was lying to myself when I said that I was just doing my drawings and nothing else because I realized from the beginning that I had an intent. I wanted to see if I could change the way gay men felt about themselves, and I wanted to see if I can elevate that and make them feel proud.” So he actually had an intention from the beginning. He never wanted to take credit personally; he really felt like being part of a community. That’s why the title of the exhibition, AllTogether, feels perfect—it was really wonderful to watch him and other artists relate, being supportive and appreciative about each other’s work. He would be glad to have been able to open the door to start speaking and fighting for the rights. 

What we hope will happen to people visiting this exhibition is that they go away changed, affected positively by the art and what it expresses, and their attitude about the gay community and diversity is changed. We hope to create a more tolerant world so we can all coexist. It’s our duty to be out there doing that.

Martens: And we at Diesel think it’s also crucial to convey a positive message. Everything in the exhibition is about happiness and joy—it’s a very cheeky exhibition, but it’s also a lot of fun. 

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