See Hundreds of Photographs From Elton John and David Furnish’s Private Collection

Never-before-seen images of celebrities, performers and important moments in history are going on display in London

The V&A Announces New Collaboration With The Sir Elton John Photography Collection Including Major Donation
Elton John and David Furnish pictured at home in their art gallery in Windsor, England, in 2019 David M. Benett / Getty Images for the V&A

Audiences know Elton John as a renowned pianist and popular entertainer, but they may be surprised to learn that he is also the owner of an impressive photography collection. Over the past few decades, John and his husband, David Furnish, have amassed more than 7,000 photographs, 300 of which will go on display next spring at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

Titled “Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection,” the new exhibition will feature rare prints from prominent photographers, most of which have never been seen by the public. 

These works will “[showcase] some of the most beloved photographers and iconic images from within our collection,” say John and Furnish in a statement from the V&A.

Dakota Hair
Dakota Hair (2004) by Ryan McGinley © Ryan McGinley Studios

John started collecting photography after recovering from alcohol and drug addiction in the 1990s, according to the Associated Press. He and Furnish first met in 1993, and the couple has since built one of the largest private collections of photography in the world.

The upcoming show isn’t the first exhibition of works from the British musician’s collection. In 2016, the Tate Modern staged “The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography From the Sir Elton John Collection,” which featured photography from the 1920s to the 1950s. In the audio guide for that show, John described photography as “the love of my life, in art terms. I love surrounding myself with them,” per CNN’s Nick Glass.

“Fragile Beauty” will be a continuation of “The Radical Eye,” focusing on photographs from the 1950s to the present day. Billed as the V&A’s “largest temporary exhibition of photography to date,” it will feature works from over 140 photographers, including Robert MapplethorpeCindy ShermanDiane ArbusSally MannZanele Muholi and Ai Weiwei.

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

The show will be divided into eight thematic sections, such as fashion, reportage and celebrity. It will feature a number of portraits of famous actors and performers, including Marilyn MonroeMiles Davis and Chet Baker. It will also showcase photographs capturing historical moments from the civil rights movement, the AIDS epidemic and the 9/11 attacks.

“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,” says Duncan Forbes, the show’s curator, in the museum’s statement. “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: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection” will be on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from May 18, 2024 to January 5, 2025.

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