Inside Gallery 40 of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, lights have been set, cameras positioned and a line-up of applauded figures including; Tina Turner, Cher, Marilyn Monroe and Janelle Monáe. Have come together to orchestrate a first-of it’s kind Diva performance which will reflect on creativity, ambition and resilience through a broad-ranging showcase. Set to run from the 24th of June until the 7th of April 2024, and star over 60 looks from across the stage and screen.
At it’s forefront, and underneath the layers of the over 250 objects, lifted from the museum’s collection, along with those from international collectors, this is an exhibition that salutes performers. Those who have, as illustrated by it’s curator Kate Bailey, “challenged the status quo and used their voice and their art to redefine and reclaim the diva.” As such, it’s one which has been interpreted from a plethora of idiosyncratic perspectives, whether through featuring pieces such as Shirley Bassey’s diamanté-studded Wellington boots (2007) or by venturing beyond the dramatism and grandiosity perhaps inherently associated with the label diva. Take, for instance, that act one of Diva, setting the stage of its origins and boasting a striking sea of costumes. That will also, point each observer’s minds to names such as; pioneering opera star Adelina Patti, who supported herself before it was acceptable for women to do so, Sarah Bernhardt, an actress who aided in driving the first wave of feminism and silent-screen siren Clara Bow who helped build on this struggle throughout the 20th century.
Must-see assembles and objects positioned throughout this element of the space, such as a jewellery box encrusted with mother-of-pearl inlay, and a couture gown very much reflect upon this focus. Especially as the former, was presented to Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, after her performance at a charity concert in support of the Queen’s College Hospital. Whilst the latter, was generously loaned by Château de Milandes, the previous home of performer-turned anti-racism advocate, Josephine Baker. 
The sequel to act one, for it’s part, is set to magnify contemporary figures, by emphasising how performers, from Prince to Grace Jones, have sought to reclaim the descriptor as an augmentation of themselves, and how through these combined efforts, the diva has boomed into a cultural and even more predominant commercial phenomenon. Similarly, act two, is anticipated to reinforce how these performers use their voices, both on and off the stage to subvert parameters. From it’s highlighting of Aretha Franklin’s Respect (1967), used as an anthem for the US Civil Rights Movement to entertainers such as Grace Jones and Annie Lennox, both of whom have turned to dress, androgyny and performance to express their own understanding of desirability, gender and the body. To conclude, the section considers how each intricate layer, from talent to costume, fuses together.
In this spirit, act two is punctuated by a host of overt creations, each worth emphasising as much as the other. The ones to keep an eye out for distinctively being the resplendent two-piece ensemble worn by Cher to the 1975 Rock Music Awards, Tina Turner’s indisputably illustrious Flame Dress (1977) envisaged by costumer to the stars Bob Mackie and last but not least Elton John’s unapologetically decadent Louis XIV catalysed outfit, complete with a mountainous wig and train (1997).
Diva  Victoria and Albert Museum 1.jpg
Diva  Victoria and Albert Museum 2.jpg
Diva  Victoria and Albert Museum 3.jpg
Diva  Victoria and Albert Museum 4.jpg
Diva  Victoria and Albert Museum 5.jpg
Diva  Victoria and Albert Museum 7.jpg
Diva  Victoria and Albert Museum 8.jpg
Diva  Victoria and Albert Museum 9.jpg
Diva  Victoria and Albert Museum 10.jpg
Diva  Victoria and Albert Museum 11.jpg