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Sir Elton John private collection @ V&A London

Opened in May 2024 at the V&A London,

Fragile Beauty: Photographs from Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection is a major exhibition of modern and contemporary photography, on loan from the private collection of Sir Elton John and David Furnish.

The exhibition showcases over 300 rare prints from 140 photographers and is the

V&A’s largest temporary exhibition of photography to date.


Eve Arnold  , Malcolm X 1962
Eve Arnold , Malcolm X 1962

Selected from their collection of over 7,000 images, the exhibited photographs (many

on public display for the first time and some in the collection’s bespoke frames) are era-defining images that explore the connection between strength and vulnerability

inherent in the human condition. Whilst universally compelling, the images are intensely

personal for John and Furnish, as they are the photographs they live with in their home.

Following on from the 2016 exhibition The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the

Sir Elton John Collection at the Tate Modern, this exhibition covers the period from

1950 to the present day. It brings together an unrivalled selection of the world’s leading

photographers to tell the story of modern and contemporary photography, and

includes celebrated works by Robert Mapplethorpe, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman,

William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Zanele Muholi, Ai Weiwei, Carrie Mae

Weems and others.


Sam Taylor-Johnson, Crying Man
Sam Taylor-Johnson, Crying Man


Brand new acquisitions are on display by Tyler Mitchell, Trevor Paglen and An-My Lê.

These join some of the very first acquisitions made by John, fashion photographs by

Horst P. Horst, Irving Penn and Herb Ritts.


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.”


Marking 30 years of collecting, the exhibition celebrates John and Furnish’s passion for

the medium and reflects their personal taste and unique eye as collectors.

Across eight thematic sections, Fragile Beauty explores themes such as fashion,

reportage, celebrity, the male body, and American photography. Portraits of stars from

stage and screen feature, including photography of Aretha Franklin, Elizabeth Taylor,

The Beatles, and Chet Baker. Many photographs in the exhibition respond to themes of

persecution, resistance, and key moments in history, and include images of the Civil

Rights movement of the 1960s, AIDS activism of the 1980s and the events of 11

September 2001.


Cindy Sherman  , Untitled
Cindy Sherman , Untitled

Highlights include: three images depicting Marilyn Monroe taken between 1957-1962

are to go on display: Richard Avedon’s well-known early photograph of the actress in

New York in 1957, Eve Arnold’s portrait of Monroe rehearsing her lines on the set of

The Misfits in 1960, and finally Bert Stern’s The Last Sitting® (1962) which captures

the star lost in thought two months before she died. Presented together to the public

for the first time, these candid portraits capture Monroe at the height of her fame, in

moments between scripted scenes or staged shoots.


Also on display is Nan Goldin’s Thanksgiving series. A 149-image series, shown in its

entirety in the exhibition, it documents events from 1973 to 1999 and depicts some of

the most intimate and emotional moments in Goldin and her community’s lives, from

the euphoric to the sensual to the distressing. Displayed floor to ceiling, the

photographs become an intense homage both to the friendships that survived those

twenty-six years, and to those friends she has lost.


About the V&A


The V&A is a family of museums dedicated to the power of creativity. Our mission is to champion design and creativity in all its forms, advance cultural knowledge, and inspire makers, creators and innovators everywhere. V&A South Kensington is a world of extraordinary global creativity, with unmissable exhibitions, experiences and educational programmes for all. One of London's most iconic buildings, it is home to national collections of art, design, fashion, photography and furniture to theatre, performance, architecture, and ceramics, as well as the UK's National Art Library.


It is a place where everyone can experience a story of creativity that spans 5,000 years and every creative discipline, which brings that story to life through programmes and activities for all ages and specialisms, and world-leading research and conservation. Vam.ac.uk

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