The V&A welcomes new exhibition Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection

LONDON’S V&A hosted a private viewing of Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection in partnership with Gucci this week, and in attendance were some of the most renowned names the city has to offer. 

Sir Paul McCartney, Stella McCartney, Mary McCartney, Sir Elton John and David Furnish. Photo by Dave Benett for Victoria & Albert Museum

The private viewing took place over the 14th and 15th of May, with the latter ushering celebrities and artists such as Omari Douglas, Nick Grimshaw, Raven Smith and Munroe Bergdorf, to name a few — alongside Sir Elton John, David Furnish and their close friends. DJ Fat Tony provided entertainment for the evening whilst the guests dined on canapés and a delicious food spread catered by The Last Supper.

 The event of the 14th welcomed personal friends of Sir Elton John and David Furnish, with the likes of father-daughter duo Sir Paul McCartney and Stella McCartney, Tracey Emin and Russel Tovey in attendance. 

Sir Paul McCartney. Photo by Dave Benett for Victoria & Albert Museum

The exhibition will be open to the public from the 18th of May 2024 to the 5th of January 2025. It will display 300 rare prints from 140 photographers derived from the legendary singer’s archive, marking the largest temporary exhibition of 20th & 21st Century photography held at the V&A. 

The images portrayed will feature some never-seen-before pieces amongst the era-defining photographs which explore the resilience and vulnerability intrinsic to the human condition.

As a follow-up from the 2016 exhibition held at the Tate Modern titled, The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection, the upcoming exhibition will span over the 1950s up until the present day and will also be featuring an instillation of 149 Nan Goldin prints from her Thanksgiving series. 

Tracey Emin. Photo by Dave Benett for Victoria & Albert Museum

The exhibition will see various renowned photographers who write the narrative of modern and contemporary photography with the likes of esteemed Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Ai Weiwei and others featuring their work. 

Amongst the assortment of subjects explored, fashion photography will also be featured, with hot names in the industry, such as Irving Penn and Herb Ritts, making a cameo. 

Sir Elton John and David Furnish. Photo by Dave Benett for Victoria & Albert Museum

“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.” — Sir Elton John and David Furnish

Fragile Beauty will adventure into themes such as fashion, reportage, celebrity, the male body and American photography through its portrayal of John and Furnish’s love for the medium, exhibiting their unique taste and eye for collecting. 

Caroline Rush and Justine Simons OBE. Photo by Dave Benett for Victoria & Albert Museum

Famed names such as Aretha Franklin, Elizabeth Taylor and the Beatles are among some of the celebrities featured, as the exhibition goes into depth on topics focused on persecution, resistance and historical moments such as photographs from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and AIDS activism of the 1980s.

Further, never-seen-before photographs taken by Richard Avedon of Marilyn Monroe at the pinnacle of her career will be on show.

Other highlights will be photographs from David LaChapelle, eleven Robert Mapplethorpe images, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Crying Men (2004), the viral image by Julio Cortez of a protester holding an upside-down U.S flag next to a blazing building following the 2020 murder of George Floyd amongst many other poignant and powerful pieces. 

Nick Grimshaw and Meshach Henry. Photo by Dave Benett for Victoria & Albert Museum

“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.” — Duncan Forbes, curator of Fragile Beauty

by Nicole Pereira