Celebrity Collector: Elton John
Earlier this year, Tate Modern announced an upcoming fall exhibition of works from Elton John's photography collection. With prints by heavyweights like Man Ray, Tina Modotti, and Alfred Stieglitz, visitors will have a rare opportunity to get up close with the impressive spread.
While the show is certainly a blockbuster event, it isn't the first time John's collection has made waves in the art world. In 2007, a similar exhibition of his photography collection was headed to the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art, until police removed Nan Goldin's controversial image of two nude children; at which point, John requested to shut down the show.
John has been collecting since the early 1990s, and as the upcoming sale of his painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol is apt to remind us, photographs are just the beginning for the singer. Counting Damien Hirst and Ai Weiwei among his friends, the Rocket Man isn't shy about his collection. His catalog of paintings, sculptures, and glass works, among other art objects, is so extensive that a special curator manages the archive.
"You must understand that I live with my art collection," John explained in a 2015 interview with online auctioneer Paddle 8. His full-time curator, Newell Harbin, is responsible for giving him tips on how to invest wisely.
Here are some of the artists in his collection:
The work has had a powerful effect on John's house guests. Jake Shears, the lead singer of the Scissor Sisters, told Vanity Fair: "I never paid much attention to Mapplethorpe until I was in Elton John's art library one afternoon, and I suddenly felt like I was discovering Robert's work for the very first time."
In an interview with the Guardian, John included works by Philip Taaffe in the visions he sees in Nice: "When I wake each morning in my room in Nice I am surrounded by the works of Schnabel, Hockney, Warhol, Cecily Brown, Philip Taaffe and photographs by Norman Parkinson, a fashion photographer I adore. I spend my time moving them around." Notably, Taaffe showed up to John and Furnish's wedding in 2014.
Works by Keith Haring are a big hit in the John-Furnish household. And when John was told in an interview with the Telegraph that his home looked like an "art gallery designed by Austin Powers," thanks in no small part to canvases by the graffiti artist, John conceded, “That's exactly what I wanted, the LA Seventies rock star look."