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Art Thieves to Be Tried for Stealing Tom of Finland’s Work

by Steve Weinstein
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jan 19, 2010

Tom of Finland is probably the best-known gay male erotic illustrator in the world. His work can be found on porn sites and on the walls of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Since his death in 1991, Touko Laaksonen has risen in the estimation of the art world. The Finnish artist had a huge influence on creative types from the Village People to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe to the "clone look" to couturiere Vivienne Westwood. Cultural historian Joseph Slade called him the "most influential creator of gay pornographic images."

Today, the Los Angeles-based Tom of Finland Foundation serves to preserve the legacy of Tom's work. Now it's involved in something more sordid than any group-sex scene depicted in Tom's works: an art theft.

Durk Dehner will travel to London to testify in the trial of two men who have been charged and pled guilty to the theft of original works of art by Tom of Finland from the Foundation's permanent collection.

The theft was made from a larger body of work by the foundation's namesake artist that had been in a European traveling exhibition since December 2006. The defendants were affiliated with a British gallery handling the U.K. leg of the tour.

According to a press release, "The investigation and prosecution of the theft of the artworks has been extremely expensive for the foundation, which even at the best of times struggles to maintain financial equilibrium as a nonprofit devoted to the support and historical conservation of erotic art."

"Fortunately," the release added, "the missing artworks have been recovered and safely returned to the foundation." The legal resolution of this case will be decided in Snaresbrook Crown Court in East London on January 25. Dehner is traveling to be a witness for the prosecution.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).


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