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This month we get the chance to talk with Madonna expert James Harknett who is taking an active part to Simply Madonna - Materials of the Girl, the exhibition event taking place next month in London, curated by memorabilia expert Ted Owen on behalf of Marquee Capital, who own over 150 Madonna memorabilia items.
A longtime Madonna fan, James will complement the exhibition by including items from his vast collection of memorabilia, including costumes and props from Evita, worldwide promotional material, magazines, store displays and posters.

Exhibition curator Ted Owen comments that this is an unprecedented collection of Madonna memorabilia representing every stage of her glittering career. MadonnaTribe readers can now get an exclusive sneek preview of what's happening behind the scenes of this even by reading our chat with James. Enjoy!


MadonnaTribe: Hi James and welcome to Madonna Tribe. Can you tell our reader a bit more about yourself? We know you live in London and that you are a Madonna fan right from the beginning...

James Harknett: Hi, I'm 35 and work in the Beauty industry in London. From the first moment I heard and saw Madonna I was captivated by her bold, bright and unique talent.
I was 11 years old and nothing in my life at that point had had such a remarkable impact on me. I grew up a dancer and was inspired by many artists from the Supremes, Abba and Michael Jackson but as soon as I saw Madonna I knew that she was going to be the greatest star in the world.

MT: You've been a Madonna collector for a long time and your collection is so vast and varied ranging from rare cds to stage costumes.
How did you become a collector?

JH: I remember the first ad I saw in Smash Hits magazine for Lucky Star and wanted to keep it as a memento. Then her face on the cover of Record Mirror. It was then the single and 12” and album and then I just desired every item to do with M. This was at the very beginning and within a year or so the bedroom was covered in her.

MT: Do you think there's a moment, a sort of turning point, when simply looking after Madonna merchandise and memorabilia becomes something
"serious", is there a borderline to cross that makes you a "real" collector?

JH: I think it becomes serious once you decide to collect everything connected to her. This happened very early on for me, and I believe that a "real" collector as you term it is one that collects not just Madonna's music, but imagery, publications and memorabilia.

MT: Do you still remember the first Madonna item of your collection?

JH: The U.K 7” record of Holiday, purchased in the beginning of 1984.

MT: How do you preserve your collection? How do you keep your pieces stored?

As you can see from the pictures, my home is a living museum. All rare prints are framed, and all 2,500 magazines are shelved in plastic wrap. I have one main large room where I shelve and store all the vinyl, c.d's and merchandise.

MT: This year you'll be contributing pieces of your collection to a new exhibition called "Simply Madonna – Materials of the Girl". Can you tell us more about this project and how did you become involved in it?

JH: I was approached by a company called Marquee Capital last year after they saw my collection on Tribe in June 2007. At the time I was planning my own exhibit, but I was delighted to be invited to join such an amazing project.
Marquee Capital has obtained some of the most iconic pieces of her career. From the iconic pink Material Girl dress to the wedding gown from Evita – the month long celebration will tell the story of Madonna's 25-year career. Unearthing a treasure trove of over 300 personal items brought together for the first time. The exhibition runs from the 21st February to 22nd March at The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, East London, E1 6QL.

MT:Which pieces of your collection we will be seeing on display in London next February?

JH: I am donating over 50 framed prints and posters which chronicle her whole career and canvases that I got from the Confessions Exhibition from LA in 2006. Of course there will be my costumes and worn Madonna items, plus all my shop displays from around the world. I am looking forward to having the space to see my whole Mitsubishi collection on display and all those rare Japanese magazine covers I have obtained from the wonderful Record Runner store in New York.


MT: Can you give our readers a sneek peek of what we will be seeing at the exhibit and why they should not miss it?

You can see from my photos by David M Mcneil, a preview of what I will be displaying at the Gallery. Also if readers log onto the Simply Madonna website at they can read about what Madonna costumes and personal Madonna items will be on display and how to obtain tickets through

MT: We've been told Madonna has been invited to take a look at the exhibition, how do you think she would react in case she sees all the stuff that it's on display?

JH: I think she would be flattered, and extremely excited to see her career celebrated in this fashion. She would probably be quite shocked to see the huge amount of items that have been produced in regards to her.


MT: You are also a big collector from the Evita movie. What do you think about that film?

It was after I saw Girlie Show in Paris in '93 when I became fascinated by musical theatre and wanted to see productions in the West End and Broadway. When I knew M was doing Evita I was overjoyed and being at the UK premiere that night was one of the best nights of my life. I am proud to say that I saw it at the Cinema over 40 times and found it the most engaging spectacle I have and will ever see. I'm always watching the Italian double DVD set as it's the best quality version in the world. I long for it on Blu Ray!!! Owning her Coat, Suits and Blouses from the movie took my collecting to a whole new dimension too.

MT: Going back to your collection, what's you favorite piece ever?

JH: After my Evita costumes, I would have to say the rhinestone bracelet worn by Madonna in the Material Girl video.

MT: What's the favorite era you like to collect items from? '80s, '90s or stuff from our days?

JH: All 3 decades have produced some incredible collector's items. However, the 1987 period holds a very special place in my heart, what with her tour and her Mitsubishi campaign.

MT: Is there a lot you're still looking after, do you have some sort of "Madonna Holy Grail"?

JH: A mint condition copy of Island magazine. My friends at Lucky Records in Paris had a copy in 2004. However, 18 Re-invention shows meant I did not have enough money at the time to purchase it.

: Madonna's career span is so wide that she fans of many different ages.
I think it's interesting to notice how new, younger collectors begin their "road to perdition" every year - and on the other hand it's not unusual to find longtime collectors that suddenly decide to put their treasures on the market.

These are rather personal decisions and are hard to judge if you're not in someone else's shoes, but I wanted to ask what do you think of both - newbie's and "former" collectors, and if you ever thought "it's time to give up"

JH: I think it is wonderful that Madonna still inspires people to start collecting items related to her. It proves how she still has her finger on the pulse.
As for those who decide to sell their collections, I understand that they may have felt that they were at the end of their own personal road. As for me giving up? – never!

MT: Madonna has wrapped the South American leg of her Sticky & Sweet Tour last month. What do you think about the show?

JH: That first show in Cardiff was one of the most unbelievable nights ever. I've seen a lot of her opening nights over the years and this one was way up there. The new interpretations of old songs were so exciting and I just found she danced so hard this time. It had touches of Girlie Show for me and with her singing You Must Love Me, this was a dream come true. I was lucky enough to follow the tour across the states and Canada and have to say it was my favorite tour experience seeing it with my dearest friends.

MT: And what do you expect from Madonna as her next career move?

JH: I feel more movie work is coming and I know there will be a new musical direction. I do hope that there is a Greatest Hits package for her fans, and that her management gives us something they know we would love. Also I'm desperate for the Sticky and Sweet DVD. Whatever road she takes next it will be the right one. I feel we have not even seen her best yet!!!

MT: Thank you James for stopping by at the Tribe. See you at the Old Truman Brewery next month!

JH: Thanks again Madonnatribe. Your site is part of my day to day life. I adore it. I'm honored to have this opportunity.


The world’s largest private collection of Madonna’s film outfits, stage costumes and artefacts

Old Truman Brewery, London
February 21st - March 22nd 2009

For further information please visit

Tickets on sale at

Photos by David M Mcneil, courtesy of James Harknett.
All images are copyright of their respective owner. This interview © 2009 Madonna Tribe.


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