V&A announces new collaboration with Sir Elton John Photography Collection

Main Image: The Sir Elton John and David Furnish Gallery, V&A Photography Centre © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The V&A says the new, long-term collaboration with The Sir Elton John Collection will revolutionise public access to photography in its Photography Centre, which opened in autumn last year

The collaboration will offer opportunities to bring together highlights from the V&A’s ‘world-leading’ photography collection of more than 800,000 photographs, alongside The Sir Elton John Photography Collection, which it calls ‘one of the greatest private photography collections in the world’.

The musician has, since 1991, developed a passion for the photographic medium to amass a collection of over 7,000 photographs that focuses on the contemporary, spanning the early 20th century to the present day. It encompasses iconic images by modern masters including Man Ray, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange and Edward Steichen. It also includes photographs by the most exciting contemporary artists working today, from Cindy Sherman to Alec Soth and Alex Prager.

Co-curated exhibition

This new partnership comprises a significant but undisclosed donation from Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish towards the museum’s recently opened Photography Centre, for which gallery 101 will be renamed in their honour, and will also include a major co-curated temporary exhibition in the near future.

Throughout their collecting, Sir Elton John and David Furnish have been keen to share their photography collection with the widest possible audience – a mission shared by the V&A – and have loaned key works to national and international exhibitions, creating new insights, dialogues and connections to further the study, enjoyment and appreciation of the medium.

“We are immensely grateful to Sir Elton John and David Furnish for their generosity in supporting our Photography Centre and mission to make historic and contemporary photography available to the widest possible audience,” said Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A. “We are united by a deep commitment to the medium, and there are huge synergies between our collections, particularly around 20th century modernist and contemporary colour photography.”

Sir Elton John and David Furnish at home in their art gallery (c) Dave Benett Getty Images for the V&A

The V&A holds the National Collection of the Art of Photography and the museum has collected photographs since its foundation in 1852 and continues to collect today. The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection was transferred to the V&A by the Science Museum Group in 2017 and was acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund.

The Sir Elton John Photography Collection was a major lender to the V&A’s 2014 exhibition, Horst: Photographer of Style and will now be part of a new and revelatory photography exhibition.

Perfect partnership

Sir Elton John said: “The V&A is known for its dedication to teaching, public research facilities and learning-based exhibitions focused on the mechanics and history of the photographic arts. For me and David, this commitment to education and mission to celebrate the medium, presents a perfect partnership. The new Photography Centre, along with the 2022 extension, will not only elevate photography but it will help foster new artists, patrons and collectors, like myself.”

The museum says that Sir Elton John and David Furnish’s generous donation enables the V&A to realise its ambitions of showcasing highlights from its extensive photography holdings, with a series of temporary displays, new acquisitions and annual contemporary commissions. Opened to the public in

In October 2018, the V&A’s new Photography Centre opened in the museum’s North East Quarter, reclaiming a series of beautiful original 19th-century picture galleries.

A new extension, scheduled to open in 2022, will expand the V&A’s Photography Centre further to include a teaching and research space, a browsing library, an historic darkroom, and a studio for photographers’ residencies, offering new and exciting ways for visitors to encounter this diverse and dynamic art form.