fbpx vie magazine subscribe button

In the Limelight

V&A’s New DIVA Exhibit Turns Heads

By Hailey Bethke | Photography courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum

Divas, unite! London’s esteemed Victoria & Albert Museum, aka the V&A, has revealed a one-of-a-kind collection to celebrate the power and creativity of iconic performers from the nineteenth century to today. The exhibit, DIVA, which opened in June 2023 and will be on display through 2024, is pulling back the curtain to share the stories behind the most eminent performers on stage and screen. Of course, all divas will be included, from opera goddesses and silent film stars to the sirens of the big screen alongside today’s global megastars.

Diva, meaning “goddess” in Italian, has been a term that has ebbed and flowed between criticism and compliment for centuries. DIVA exhibit curator, Kate Bailey, says, “At the heart of this exhibition is a story of iconic performers. With creativity, courage, and ambition, they have challenged the status quo and used their voices and art to redefine and reclaim the diva.”

The exhibition has acquired more than 250 objects from around the globe, spanning fashion, photography, design, costumes, music, and live performance footage. Storytelling is at the heart of the mission, as made clear by the intentional flow of the walkthrough. With state-of-the-art theatrical staging and a sonic headset experience, the V&A fully immerses visitors in the lives of these performers, particularly emphasizing how they have influenced all aspects of society, from creating an emotional connection with their audiences to impacting civil rights and feminist movements.

“Act One” of the exhibit celebrates how the first opera divas, Adelina Patti and Jenny Lind, created and performed extraordinary roles, bringing them wealth and recognition at a time when most women could not pursue an education or career. Also, visitors will learn how actors such as Ellen Terry, Sarah Bernhardt, and Marie Lloyd drove the first wave of feminism and how the powerful women of the twentieth century built on this struggle for equality, including silent-screen stars Clara Bow and Mary Pickford and Golden Age of Hollywood stars Vivien Leigh, Mae West, and Marilyn Monroe. Key pieces from this section include: early Parisian couture worn by Adriana Patti, on display for the first time; a couture gown and other personal items from Josephine Baker’s former home in France, depicting her groundbreaking career from performer to activist; a corseted crimson dress designed by Christian Dior and worn by Vivien Leigh as Paola in Duel of Angels at the Apollo Theater (1958); and the sleek black fringed dress worn by Marilyn Monroe as the character Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk in Some Like it Hot (1959).

Over sixty looks will be shown, many rare or on display for the first time, also including a stage ensemble worn by Maria Callas as Norma in the Covent Garden Opera Company production of Norma (1952) and the only known surviving dress worn by Clara Bow, rarely seen outside of the US. Iconic costumes designed for the stars by Bob Mackie will be displayed, with looks worn by Tina Turner, P!nk, and Cher. Don’t miss the Louis XIV-inspired look with a towering powdered wig and train worn by Elton John for his fiftieth birthday celebration, designed by Sandy Powell. And guests will get a kick out of Janelle Monae’s “vulva pants” designed by Duran Lantink for the music video for “Pynk” (2018). In addition to these major fashion statements will be posters, song sheets, lyrics, and personal objects owned by divas ranging from Prince to Whitney Houston and many, many more.

Over sixty looks will be shown, many rare or on display for the first time

Dame Shirley Bassey’s couture pink gown designed by Julien MacDonald, including her iconic diamanté-studded Wellington boots, worn on stage at Glastonbury (2007), will also join the lineup. Bassey is excited to see the diva celebrated in the exhibition. “It’s wonderful to see the V&A reclaiming the title,” she says. “To me, diva is all about the power of the voice and the ability to entertain, to succeed against the odds, to fight, and to break through barrier after barrier to have your voice heard.”

“Act Two” of the exhibit celebrates the modern diva after paying homage to the performers who blazed a path in entertainment for creativity and boldness.

“Act Two” of the exhibit celebrates the modern diva after paying homage to the performers who blazed a path in entertainment for creativity and boldness. Here, expect to see names like Billie Eilish and Rihanna alongside conversations about the cult of the celebrity and the battle between public and private life.

A delight for the senses, DIVA has embraced multimedia and storytelling through many lenses. Much like the divas it celebrates, this tribute to entertainers through the ages will leave you breathless.

— V —

Visit VAM.ac.uk to learn more or get tickets. DIVA is on display at the V&A through April 7, 2024.

Read Responsibly

December 2023, Holiday Issue, Christmas, VIE Magazine, Lisa Burwell, Cover, Gift Guide, Holidays
Marisol Gullo, Not Too Shabby, Home, Decor, Interior Design, Santa Rosa Beach, Churchill Oaks
VIE Magazine September 2023 Jay Mercado
VIE Magazine - The Art & Design Issue November 2021
VIE Magazine January 2021 Special Commemorative Edition
VIE Magazine September 2020 Wanderlust Issue, Fancy Camps, The Idea Boutique
VIE Magazine August 2020 Art & Culture Issue, Nathan Alan Yoakum Art
VIE Magazine - Architecture & Design Issue - July 2020
VIE Magazine - Decor and Home Issue - June 2020
VIE Magazine May 2020 Entertainment Issue, Leslie Odom Jr
VIE Magazine - April 2020 Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine March 2020 The Fashion Edit, VONDOM, Alys Beach Fl, Digital Graffiti, Tres Chic, isidro dunbar Modern Interiors, Digital Graffiti Festival
VIE Magazine February 2020 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Travel Issue - January 2020 - Tanzania Safari Cover
VIE Magazine - Women's Issue - December 2019 - Tina Brown Cover
VIE NOV19 Goodness Issue
VIE Magazine, September 2019 Art & Culture Issue, Paul Hanninen
VIE Magazine - August 2019 - The Architecture and Design Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2019 - The Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - June 2019 - Fashion Edit
VIE Magazine - May 2019 - Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine - April 2019 - The Health & Wellness Issue
VIE Magazine - Special Entertainment Edition - March 2019
VIE Magazine February 2019 Luxury Homes & Technology Issue with Robbie Antonio of Revolution Precrafted
VIE Magazine - January 2019 - Southern Sophisticate Issue Cover
VIE Magazine - Special Anniversary Travel Edition - December 2018
VIE Magazine - The Goodness Issue - November 2018
VIE Magazine - The Art & Culture Issue - October 2018
VIE Magazine - Home & Garden Issue - September 2018
VIE Magazine - August 2018 Animal Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2018 Architecture & Design Issue - Subscribe to the magazine!
VIE Magazine - June 2018 Travel & Tech Issue
VIE Magazine - May 2018 Couture Issue
VIE Magazine - The Culinary Issue - April 2018 Cover - Chef James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst
VIE Magazine - The Entertainers Issue - March 2018
VIE Magazine - February 2018 Destination Travel Issue
VIE Magazine - January 2018 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine, The Sophisticate Issue, December 2017
VIE Magazine - November 2017 Art & Culture Issue
VIE Magazine - October 2017 Home & Garden Issue
VIE Magazine | September 2017 | The Stories and Storytellers Issue
VIE Magazine - The Adventure Issue - August 2017
VIE Magazine - July 2017 - Art & Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - The Voyager Issue - June 2017
VIE magazine 2017 March-April Cover South Walton Fashion Week
VIE Magazine - January/February 2017 - The Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Nov/Dec 2016 The Sophisticate Issue
christian siriano vie magazine september october 2016 vie magazine
the modern minimalist issue
the culinary and couture issue march april 2016 vie magazine
the voyager issue alys beach vie magazine january february 2016
cultural issue vie magazine november december 2015
home and garden issue vie magazine september october 2015
the art and style issue vie magazine july august 2015
the wedding issue 2015 May June vie magazine
the food and fashion issue vie magazine march april 2015
the travel issue vie magazine january february 2015
the music issue vie magazine 2014 november december
The Animal Issue vie magazine september october 2014
the home and garden issue vie magazine july august 2014
the wedding issue vie magazine may june 2014
emeril lagasse food and fashion vie magazine
the men's issue january february 2014
the music issue november december 2013 vie magazine
the home and garden issue 2013 october september
the wedding issue vie magazine july august 2013
the artist issue may june 2013 vie magazine
the food and fashion issue march april 2013
the men's issue january february 2013 vie magazine
The Holiday Issue
the love issue july august 2012
the all american summer may june 2012
the entertainment issue march april 2012
the fashion issue vie magazine winter 2011
the home and garden issue vie magazine fall 2011
the anniversary edition vie magazine summer 2011
the wedding issue vie magazine spring 2011
vie magazine the holiday issue 2010 Dec
vintage swimsuits vie magazine 2010 Fall
judith march designer vie magazine summer 2010
wedding giveaway vie magazine spring 2010
holiday gift guide vie magazine winter 2009
emarketing explosion vie magazine fall 2009
tribute to mother's day vie magazine summer 2009
james and robert redford vie magazine spring 2009
zz top vie magazine fall winter 2008
project dreams vie magazine new york fashion week
Sign-up for VIEmail

Sign up for VIEmail