Tom House – Los Angeles, California - Atlas Obscura
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Los Angeles, California

Tom House

Historic house-museum dedicated to the revolutionary gay graphic artist Tom of Finland. 

Behind a wholesome looking 106-year old façade, situated behind a manicured evergreen hedge, is a shrine to desire.

To call Tom of Finland the 20th Century’s “most influential creator of gay pornographic images,” as cultural historian Joseph W. Slade once so prominently remarked, is to sell short the artist’s accomplishments in the fields of graphic design and cultural revolution. For this reason, a thoroughly engrossing, wonderfully educational museum dedicated to showcasing his work and the subsequent, lasting impact on society can be found in the artist’s very own 1906 Craftsman-style house perched atop a hill overlooking Echo Park.

“I work very hard to make sure that the men I draw having sex are proud men having happy sex!”  – Tom of Finland 

Born Touko Laaksonen in 1920, Tom of Finland’s hyper erotic images have become icons of the gay community particularly in the uniform and leather fetish scenes. From 1981-1991 Tom split his time between his home in Finland’s capital, Helsinki, and this house in Echo Park. Here, he lived and worked, keeping in a studio space in the attic where the he would sequester himself, chain-smoke cigarettes and work on collaged reference pages, sketches and preparatory drawings.

In 1984, Tom and his partner-slash-protégé Durk Dehner started the non-profit Tom of Finland Foundation to preserve his work. Since that time, the Foundation has also become an international safe haven for homoerotic art and anti-censorship advocacy. This is perfectly in keeping with the artist’s philosophy, in that, it’s “is all about having a healthier, more natural way of looking at sexuality. We think sexuality doesn’t stop when you leave the bedroom.”

Tom’s art, once censored for being pornography, now appears in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and has been published as a best-selling Taschen monograph. Moreover, Rizzoli has just published a new monograph featuring the Foundation’s Museum itself: Tom House: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles, which features many of Tom’s heretofore unseen sketches and drawings. 

Know Before You Go

Street parking is available on Laveta Terrace and in the surrounding neighborhood. Via Metro: use the #2 Sunset or #4 Santa Monica buses, get off at Echo Park Boulevard and take the Laveta Stairs up.