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Transport chiefs remove Tom of Finland posters after pornography complaint

Poster promoting exhibition of work by the the iconic gay artist Tom of Finland was taken down from digital advertising boards across Helsinki's transport network on Thursday after a complaint to police. However after an intervention by the city's deputy mayor, the posters were restored.

Tom of Finland -näyttely Taidehallissa.
The exhibit, Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play at Kunsthalle Helsinki, opened at the start of May and will continue through August 7. Image: Pauliina Karjalainen / Yle

A member of the public who was outraged to see adverts on Helsinki's public transport featuring homoerotic artwork by one of Finland's most famous artists succeeded in getting the images removed on Thursday.

Helsinki City Transport (HKL) ordered outdoor ad firm JCDecaux to take down posters for an exhibition of works by the internationally revered homoerotic artist Tom of Finland, after Helsinki officials learned that a criminal complaint had been made, claiming the image was pornographic.

The picture, in the iconic style which won Tom of Finland - real name Touko Laaksonen - worldwide fame, is being used on the posters for the Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play exhibition which is currently on display at at Kunsthalle Helsinki.

On hearing of HKL's order to remove the images from the transport network's digital advertising displays, Kunsthalle Helsinki's director Jan Förster told Yle the museum was considering taking legal action, claiming that the removal of adverts they'd paid for was a breach of contract.

Förster said the museum expects a large number of visitors to come view the exhibit next week, during Helsinki Pride Week 2016.

Deputy Mayor: "Not a question of pornography"

However, on hearing of HKL's decision, the city's deputy mayor, Pekka Sauri, overruled transport bosses and ordered staff to turn the posters back on.

"I read through the criminal complaint and it doesn't say that the ads needed to be removed. The complaint claims it is a question of pornography, but that's not what's in the ads," Sauri said.

Since they are computer controlled, the ads can be switched on and off remotely with little effort.

The exhibition, Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play, opened at Kunsthalle Helsinki in the beginning of May and will continue until August 7. It has already become the third most popular show in the museum's 20-year history.


19.30: CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article wrongly said that the poster featured two men in a homosexual embrace.

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