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Elton John’s V&A exhibition to display 300 photographs from his collection

Photography lovers are in for a treat in 2024 — and they’ve got music superstar Elton John to thank.

That’s because a major London exhibition of modern and contemporary photography is to be staged at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington.

It’s going to be huge. In fact, it’ll be the V&A’s largest temporary exhibition of photography to date.

There’ll be 300 rare prints from a mammoth 140 photographers on show, and they are all on loan from the private collection of Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish.

Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection will open in May 2024 and will bring together an unrivalled selection of the world’s leading photographers to tell the story of photography in the modern era.

Woman in an open top car with her hair in the wind and drinking a milkshake
Dakota Hair, 2004, by Ryan McGinley. © Ryan McGinley Studios (1)

It will include works by icons of the medium including Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Zanele Muholi, Ai Weiwei, Carrie Mae Weems and many, many more.

Plus: the images will depict icons as well. Portraits of stars from stage and screen will feature, including photography of Marilyn Monroe, Miles Davis, and Chet Baker.

And there’ll be 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 too.

The exhibition will celebrate John and Furnish’s passion for the medium and will reflect their personal taste and unique eye as collectors. The first ever photographs acquired by Elton will be included in the display.

It’ll all play out​ across eight thematic sections, such as fashion, reportage, celebrity, the male body, and American photography.

When announcing the exhibition, Elton and David praised the relationship they have built with the V&A since first loaned a selection of Horst photographs to the museum in 2014. They have also given a major donation in 2019 to the V&A’s Photography Centre which resulted in one of the galleries named after them both.

“Fragile Beauty takes our collaboration to really exciting new heights” the couple said. They added that it will showcase “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.”

Stylised photography depicting a woman wearing a backless black dress
Versace Dress (Back View), El Mirage 1990 © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

Sir Elton John began collecting photographs in 1991 and his collection is now regarded as one of the leading private photography collections in the world, distinguished by its exceptional quality and remarkable range and depth. From major vintage 20th century modernist works to cutting-edge contemporary images, the collection now holds over 7,000 fine art photographs.

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.”

Elton John Fragile Beauty exhibition tickets

Tickets for this exciting show are not yet on sale. There’s no current date for their release, but it might be before the end of the year. But as ever we do know that V&A members will be able to get in free.

Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection, in partnership with Gucci, will open at the V&A in South Kensington on 18 May 2024. It'll run until 5 January 2025.

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