V&A announces a major exhibition of Elton John's photography collection

Dakota Hair, 2004, by Ryan McGinley.
Dakota Hair, 2004, by Ryan McGinley. (Image credit: © Ryan McGinley Studios)

Much of the photography collection of Sir Elton John and David Furnish will be loaned to and exhibited at the V&A Museum in London, England, and will showcase a who's who of legendary photographers.

Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection will be exhibited in partnership with Gucci at the V&A next year. The exhibition will be comprised of over 300 rare prints from over 140 photographers – the majority of which will be on display to the public for the first time. This is a perfect opportunity to see the work of some of the greatest photographers of all time.

Versace Dress (Back View), El Mirage 1990 by Herb Ritts (Image credit: ©Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey Klein Gallery, Los Angeles)

The exhibition will showcase photographs from the 1950s to the present day and will follow on from a previous exhibition at London's Tate Modern – The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection

The new show brings together an unrivaled selection of the world’s leading photographers to tell the story of modern and contemporary photography. Works by Robert Mapplethorpe, William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Zanele Muholi, and others will be included. 

The V&A states that the exhibition will include photographs "across eight thematic sections, it will explore subjects such as fashion, reportage, celebrity, the male body, and American photography. Portraits of stars from stage and screen will feature, including photography of Marilyn Monroe, 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".

Simply Fragile, 2022 by Tyler Mitchell (Image credit: © Tyler Mitchell. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

As well as showcasing and celebrating some of the great photographers, this exhibition also marks 30 years of collecting, John and Furnish’s passion for the medium, and their unique eyes as collectors. 

"Since we first loaned a selection of Horst photographs to the V&A in 2014, our relationship with the museum has grown significantly," said Sir Elton. 

"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."

Chet Baker, New York City, 1956 by Herman Leonard. (Image credit: © Herman Leonard Photography, LLC)

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.

Just by looking at the list of photographers included in the exhibition, this is a must-see! I always appreciate photography and the work involved in making an image more when viewed in person – there is magic to a print's physicality that is lost in the modern age of artificial screens. This will also be a great time to see so many great works in one place, with many being shown for the first time. 

The exhibition will take place May 18 2024 - January 05 2025 in The Sainsbury Gallery, V&A South Kensington, London, with tickets available soon. Plenty of time to make travel arrangements!

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Kalum Carter
Staff Writer

Kalum Carter is a UK-based photographer, writer, and photo editor. Kalum has been working as a freelance photographer for the best part of ten years, covering a wide range of assignments for well-known brands and publications in areas including portraiture, fashion, and documentary. 

Between commercial assignments, Kalum is currently working on a personal photography project exploring his connection to the Gower region of South Wales UK, as part of an MA in Photography from The University of West England.