Modernist photos from Elton John’s private collection go on display

From Mark Brown at the Guardian

Tate Modern’s Radical Eye exhibition features 200 of 8,000 works collected by singer since he quit drinking 26 years ago.

A poster of Man Ray’s Glass Tears is displayed at The Radical Eye exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
A poster of Man Ray’s Glass Tears is displayed at The Radical Eye exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

Almost 200 modernist photographs from a vast collection built by Sir Elton John after he stopped drinking 26 years ago have gone on display at the Tate Modern.

The singer has about 8,000 works – some of which he hangs in his penthouse in Atlanta, Georgia – in a private collection considered one of the finest in the world.

The photographs lent to the London gallery are images from the 1920s to the 50s by some of the most important photographers of the past century, including Man Ray, André Kertész and Berenice Abbott.

A poster of Man Ray’s Glass Tears is displayed at The Radical Eye exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
A selection of images from the Radical Eye exhibition. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

John explained how his passion for photography was inspired by sobriety after leaving rehab. “What drew me to photography was I got sober in 1990. I’d had my pictures and photograph taken by a lot of great photographers and never knew anything about it as an art form whatsoever,” he said.

He bought his first images, black and white fashion photographs, while staying in France with a friend. “I thought these are amazing, I bought maybe 12.”

Since then, John said, photography had taken “over my life in a way … It’s been the art form I’ve loved the most ever and I’ve loved all sorts of art forms. This is the one I’m most passionate and know most about.”

John uses his 18,000 sq ft apartment in the Buckhead area of Atlanta as his private gallery, displaying the images in gold and silver frames rather than the usual black metal.

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