Elton John fans can now see his private collection of photography

An exhibition is taking place next year at the V&A in London.
Dakota Hair, 2004, by Ryan McGinley. Copyright: Ryan McGinley Studios
Dakota Hair, 2004, by Ryan McGinley. © Ryan McGinley Studios.

The V&A is to present a major exhibition of modern and contemporary photography, on loan from the private collection of Sir Elton John and David Furnish. Showcasing over 300 rare prints from over 140 photographers – the majority of which will be on display to the public for the first time – Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection will be the V&A’s largest temporary exhibition of photography to date.

Following on from the 2016 exhibition The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection at the Tate Modern, this exhibition will cover the period from the 1950s to the present day. It will bring together an unrivalled selection of the world’s leading photographers to tell the story of modern and contemporary photography, and will include works by Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Zanele Muholi, Ai Weiwei, Carrie Mae Weems and others. Marking 30 years of collecting, the exhibition will celebrate John and Furnish’s passion for the medium and will reflect their personal taste and unique eye as collectors.

Across eight thematic sections, it will explore subjects such as fashion, reportage, celebrity, the male body, and American photography.Portraitsof stars from stage and screen will feature, including photography of MarilynMonroe, Miles Davis, and Chet Baker, as well as iconic images from key moments of history from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, AIDS activism of the 1980s and the events of 11 September 2001.

Also on display will be the very first acquisitions made by John, fashion photographs by P. Horst, Irving Penn and Herb Ritts, as well as some of the newest additions to their collection including Tyler Mitchell, Trevor Paglen and An-My Lê. Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection is curated by Duncan Forbes, Head of Photography at the V&A, Newell Harbin, Director of The Sir Elton John Photography Collection, and Lydia Caston, Exhibition Project Curator. The exhibition is part of the ongoing partnership between Sir Elton John and David Furnish with the V&A, which began with their generous support for the V&A’s Photography Centre in 2019.

Sir Elton John and David Furnish, said: “Since we first loaned a selection of Horst photographs to the V&A in 2014, our relationship with the museum has grown significantly. Fragile Beauty takes our collaboration to really exciting new heights, showcasing some of the most beloved photographers and iconic images from within our collection. Working alongside the V&A again has been a truly memorable experience, and we look forward to sharing this exhibition with the public.”

Duncan Forbes, curator of Fragile Beauty, said: “We are delighted to be working with Sir Elton John and David Furnish to present highlights from their unparalleled collection: from the playful and surprising, to the contemplative and thoughtful. Whether through the elegance of fashion photography, the creativity of musicians and performers, the exploration of desire, or the passage of history as captured by photojournalism, photography reveals something important about the world. Fragile Beauty will be a truly epic journey across the recent history of photography, and a celebration of Sir Elton John and David Furnish’s passion for the medium.”

Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection, in partnership with Gucci, runs between May 18 and January 5, 2024 at The Sainsbury Gallery, V&A, South Kensington, London. Tickets will soon be available online.

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