New V&A show ‘DIVA’ salutes and studies top stars

By Hanna Rantala

LONDON (Reuters) – London’s Victoria and Albert Museum draws inspiration from some of the world’s best-known performers for its summer exhibition, celebrating their talent, creativity and influence.

    Titled “DIVA”, the exhibition features some 60 costumes and 250 items from screen sirens and stage stars from the 19th century to today, many displayed for the first time.

    Highlights include a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in the 1959 film “Some Like it Hot”, Maria Callas’ costumes from her first and last performances at The Royal Opera House and Franco Zeffirelli’s “Tosca” in 1964, as well as fashion designer Bob Mackie’s outfits for singers Tina Turner, Cher and P!nk.

Also on display is Elton John’s Louis XIV-inspired 50th birthday party look, complete with its colossal wig and train, and singer Janelle Monae’s “vulva pants” from her 2018 “Pynk” music video.

    “Some of this goes all the way back to the turn of the century, 1900, you know opera singers, silent film stars. Their films don’t even exist [anymore], they have disintegrated, but the clothes are still there on display,” Mackie said ahead of a press preview on Tuesday.

    The exhibition is divided into two sections, with “Act One” offering historical context and “Act Two” focused on major modern day artists.

It uses the objects to recount the creation of the diva, delving into personal stories and looking at performers’ activism and sway on social issues, including equality and civil rights.

Also on show are personal objects, song sheets, posters and photography.

“The diva has a strong sense of self, an attitude and knowing… how to use their voice,” lead curator Kate Bailey said.

“We really wanted to show that story… where they’ve given their voice to change, from activism to global feminism… so it’s a sort of celebration of that side of the diva as well as the feathers and the sequins.”

    “DIVA” runs from June 24 to April 7, 2024.

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)