MANIFESTO

#63

CHANGE OF SPACE

FRAGILE BEAUTY

2024.05.20

Text by MUSE Team

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London presents over 300 rare prints belonging to 140 world-renowned photographers. It’s a significant photographic exhibition that tells the story of the 20th and 21st centuries through the private collection of Sir Elton John and David Furnish.

Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
From May 18th, 2024 to January 5th, 2025

The private collection of Sir Elton John and David Furnish, the result of thirty years of passionate collecting, represents one of the most impressive private photography collections on a global level. Elton John – a film enthusiast and avid reader, particularly fascinated by images of artists Salvador Dalí and David Hockney, composer Igor Stravinsky, and writer Truman Capote – fell in love with photography in the early 1990s. In 1993, he purchased a 1932 image by Man Ray, Glass Tears, for $193,895, then the highest price ever paid for a single photograph at auction. The public became aware of John’s impressive photography collection, which charts the rise of the medium from 1910 onwards, through the exhibitions Chorus of Light at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in 2000 and The Radical Eye at Tate Modern in London in 2016. One of the main lots in the collection is Dovima with Elephants by Richard Avedon, 1955, a variant of what is perhaps his most famous photograph of all time: among the boundless spaces of Ryan McGinley, the conceptual self-portraits of Cindy Sherman, and the lives of others by Diane Arbus, stand out names like William Eggleston, Sally Mann, and Zanele Muholi. But also the forgotten objects of Irving Penn, the uncensored bodies of Robert Mapplethorpe, and the China of Ai Weiwei alongside Tyler Mitchell, Trevor Paglen, and Horst P. Horst. Since 1993, Elton John and David Furnish have diligently preserved more than 7,000 photographic works by 140 authors, 300 of which will be exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in the spring, following the success of The Radical Eye.

Tyler Mitchell, Simply Fragile, 2022. © Tyler Mitchell. Courtesy of the artist. In the top image: Ryan McGinley, Dakota Hair, 2004 © Ryan McGinley Studios.

“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”.

– Duncan Forbes

In collaboration with Gucci, Fragile Beauty serves as a further exploration of the photographic landscape, tracing the most significant events in history from the 1950s to today and emerging as the largest temporary exhibition dedicated to photography in the history of the V&A. Structured into eight thematic sections curated by Duncan Forbes, Newell Harbin, and Lydia Caston, the exhibition encompasses both fashion and reportage. Iconic portraits of personalities such as Marilyn Monroe, Miles Davis, and Chet Baker alternate with a more intimate narrative, addressing themes such as the exploration of the male body, LGBTQ+ rights, and campaigns against AIDS. It’s a testament to Elton John’s profound connection with this medium, described as the love of my life, in artistic terms.

NAN GOLDIN, CLEMENS, JENS AND NICOLAS LAUGHING AT LE PULP, PARIS, 1999 © NAN GOLDIN. COURTESY OF NAN GOLDIN AND GAGOSIAN.

“Fragile Beauty takes our collaboration to really exciting new heights, showcasing some of the most beloved photographers and iconic images from within our collection”.

– Sir Elton John and David Furnish

Eve Arnold, Malcolm X, Chicago, Illinois, USA, 1962.
© Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos.
David LaChapelle, Elton John: Egg On His Face, New York, 1999.
© David LaChapelle.
Herb Ritts, Versace Dress (Back View), El Mirage, 1990.
© Herb Ritts Foundation. Courtesy of Fahey Klein Gallery, Los Angeles.
NAN GOLDIN, JIMMY PAULETTE AND TABOO! IN THE BATHROOM, 1991 © NAN GOLDIN.
COURTESY OF NAN GOLDIN AND GAGOSIAN.
SAM TAYLOR-JOHNSON, CRYING MEN (LAURENCE FISHBURNE), 2002 © SAM TAYLOR-JOHNSON.

Per maggiori informazioni vam.ac.uk.

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