Next month, the V&A is hosting a hotly anticipated exhibition of photographs loaned from the extraordinary collection of Elton John and David Furnish.

Held in partnership with Gucci, Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection runs at the South Kensington museum from 18 May.

Tickets are now on sale for what will be will be the V&A’s largest temporary exhibition of photography to date, showcasing over 300 rare and era-defining prints from 1950 to the present day by 140 photographers from the 20th and 21st Century, including Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Zanele Muholi, Ai Weiwei, Nan Goldin, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Newham Recorder: Elton John, Egg on his face, New York, 1999 © David LaChapelleElton John, Egg on his face, New York, 1999 © David LaChapelle (Image: David LaChapelle)

Themed across eight sections exploring fashion, reportage, celebrity, the male body, and American photography, A Fragile Beauty includes images of stars from stage and screen such as Aretha Franklin, Elizabeth Taylor, The Beatles, and three of Marilyn Monroe taken between 1957-1962.

They are Richard Avedon’s well-known early photograph of the actress in New York in 1957, Eve Arnold’s portrait of Monroe rehearsing her lines on the set of The Misfits in 1960, and Bert Stern’s The Last Sitting® (1962) which captures the star lost in thought two months before she died.

Many photographs respond to themes of persecution, resistance, and key moments in history including the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, AIDS activism of the 1980s, and 11 September 2001.

Newham Recorder: Marilyn Monroe in the Nevada desert going over her lines for a difficult scene she is about to play in the film THE MISFITS. 1960 © Eve Arnold/Magnum PhotosMarilyn Monroe in the Nevada desert going over her lines for a difficult scene she is about to play in the film THE MISFITS. 1960 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos (Image: Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos)

The exhibition represents just a fraction of the couple's 7,000-strong collection, brought together over 30 years, with many of the photographs on public display for the first time.

Often exploring the connection between strength and vulnerability, they are intensely personal for the 77-year-old music star and his husband as they are the photographs they live with in their home.

Ranging from a monumental installation of 149 Nan Goldin prints from her Thanksgiving series, to some of Elton John's very first acquisitions; fashion photographs by Horst P. Horst and Herb Ritts, the show is a reflection of their passion for the medium, personal taste and unique eye as collectors.​

Sir Elton John and David Furnish, said: “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."

Duncan Forbes, curator of Fragile Beauty, said: “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."

Other highlights will include the humorous portrait of Elton John with two eggs over his eyes (Elton John: Egg On His Face, 1999); eleven Robert Mapplethorpe images ranging from his still life including Poppy (1988), to the iconic horned self-portrait taken in 1985; Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Crying Men (2004), featuring some of Hollywood’s greatest male talents including Laurence Fishburne, Robin Williams and Daniel Craig, in vulnerable states of tearfulness and contemplation; the viral image by Associated Press photographer Julio Cortez, taken at the protests in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, depicting a lone protester carrying an upside-down U.S. flag next to a burning building; and Peter Hujar’s unflinching portrait, Candy Darling in Her Deathbed (1974), depicting the American transgender actress Candy (an Andy Warhol superstar and a muse of The Velvet Underground) in her hospital bed.

A Fragile Beauty runs at the V&A from from 18 May to 5 January, 2025.