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Elton John’s Healthy Addiction: Buying Pictures

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When the British singer Elton John visited the White Cube gallery in London in 1999, he was amazed by the installation. thanksgiving day American photographer Nan Goldin. On display were 149 photographs from the years 1973-1999, hung side by side, above and below the walls from floor to ceiling. Goldin’s tribute to his friends, many of whom had died of drink, drugs or AIDS. Moved by the subject – Elton John himself had given up drink and drugs in 1990 – he exclaimed: “How can you pick just one picture from this? He can never tell this whole story.” And so I bought them all.

Nan Goldin’s monumental installation is part of the exhibition Fragile beauty At the Victoria and Albert Museum, where more than 300 photographs from more than 140 photographers from the collection of Elton John (77) and his husband David Furnish (61) can be seen until the beginning of next year.

Nan Goldin, Clemens, Jens and Nicolas laugh at Le Pulp, Paris, 1999.
Photo by Nan Gold. Courtesy of Nan Goldin and Gagosian
Nan Goldin, Jimmy Paulette and Tabu! In the bathroom, 1991.
Photo by Nan Gold. Courtesy of Nan Goldin and Gagosian

Elton John is considered one of the greatest private collectors of photography, made possible by the wealth he amassed through his music as one of the best-selling artists of all time. In interviews, he likes to talk about how he replaced his drinking and drug addiction with another, much healthier one; buying photography. He now owns over 7,000.

The exhibition at the 2016 Grand Reception featured an impressive selection of works from the years 1920-1950 A radical eye at Tate Modern. Fragile beauty picks up the yarn with an overview from 1950 onwards The selection includes works by several famous names: Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Cindy Sherman, William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, and is therefore one of a kind. Gallery of honor from photography. There are also works by lesser-known, young artists such as Meghann Riepenhoff, Harley Weir and Wardell Milan.

Untitled film Still, 1978 (No. 17).
Image courtesy of Cindy Sherman, the artist and Hauser & Wirth Gallery

Buying art has become a popular pastime for the super rich. Many artists also build large collections, including Madonna, Pharell Williams, Robbie Williams, Beyoncé & Jay-Z – 350 works from David Bowie’s collection were auctioned at Sotheby’s after his death in November 2016, fetching over $30 million, a record sale. in contemporary British art at the time. When buying new works of art, museums are now heavily priced out of the market by private collectors, art sociologist Olav Velthuis said earlier in an interview. From the correspondent. It is therefore not surprising that major museums are happy to collaborate with them – it gives them the opportunity to present work that they cannot buy themselves. John/Furnish’s collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum dates back to 2014, when they lent several works to a major retrospective of fashion photographer Horst P. Horst. In 2019 they made a significant donation to the museum to establish a new photography wing, one of the galleries now bears their name: the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Gallery.

Poppy, 1988.
Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Peter Hujar, Candy Darling on her deathbed, 1973.
Photo by Peter Hujar Archive, LLC Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Zachary, 2011.
Photo by Adam Fuss. Courtesy of the artist and Fraenkel Gallery San Francisco

Fragile beauty shows documentary and journalistic photographs. For example, John collected more than two thousand photographs on the theme of the 9/11 attacks. There’s a lot of male nudity (Robert Mapplethorpe, Larry Clarke, Ryan McGinley), fashion (Herb Rits, Horst P. Horst, Irving Penn), celebrity portraits (three times Monroe, Eve Arnold, Avedon and Bert Stern). Elton John also did work on commission. For example, there’s a remake of a photo by British photographer Adam Fuss, who took beautiful life-size photos of a baby in water in 1992. Fuss repeated the method—he makes photograms so each photo is unique—in 2011 with Zachary, another of John and Furbish’s sons.

The raw edge – Goldin’s portraits, The Falling 9/11-Man, the macabre work of Joel-Peter Witkin, the penetrating portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe just before his death – John shows that he did not want to create a proper exhibition. . You can take the most beautiful pictures of the most painful, horrible things, he said earlier: “This is the power of photography, the dichotomy of tragedy and beauty.”

Elton John, Egg On His Face, New York, 1999.
Photo by David Lachape




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