About the Fragile Beauty exhibition

Showcasing over 300 rare prints from 140 photographers, Fragile Beauty is a major presentation of 20th- and 21st-century photography on loan from the private collection of Sir Elton John and David Furnish.

Selected from their collection of over 7,000 images, the photographs (many of which will be on public display for the first time) are era-defining images which explore the connection between strength and vulnerability inherent in the human condition.

(Left to Right:) Self-Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission; Untitled Film Still #17, Cindy Sherman, 1978. © Cindy Sherman, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth Gallery; Untitled (Little House), Deep South, Sally Mann, 1998. © Sally Mann. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

The exhibition covers the period from 1950 to the present day, including a monumental installation of 149 Nan Goldin prints from her Thanksgiving series. It brings together an unrivalled selection of the world's leading photographers to tell the story of modern and contemporary photography, and includes celebrated works by Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Zanele Muholi, Ai Weiwei, Carrie Mae Weems and others.

Brand new acquisitions are also on display by Tyler Mitchell, Trevor Paglen and An-My Lê. These join some of the very first acquisitions made by Elton John, including fashion photographs by Horst P. Horst, Irving Penn and Herb Ritts.

(Left to Right:) Simply Fragile, Tyler Mitchell, 2022. © Tyler Mitchell. Courtesy of the artist; Versace Dress (Back View), El Mirage, Herb Ritts, 1990. © Herb Ritts Foundation, Courtesy of Fahey Klein Gallery, Los Angeles; Elton John: Egg On His Face, New York, David LaChapelle, 1999. © David LaChapelle

Marking 30 years of collecting, the exhibition celebrates Elton John and David Furnish's passion for photography and reflects their personal taste and unique eye as collectors. Across eight thematic sections, Fragile Beauty explores themes such as fashion, reportage, celebrity, the male body, and American photography. Portraits of stars from stage and screen also feature, including photography of Aretha Franklin, Elizabeth Taylor, The Beatles, and Chet Baker. Many photographs in the exhibition respond to themes of persecution, resistance, and key moments in history, including images of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, AIDS activism of the 1980s and the events of 11 September 2001.

Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection runs from 18 May 2024 to 5 January 2025

Header image:

Simply Fragile, Tyler Mitchell, 2022. © Tyler Mitchell. Courtesy of the artist