A recent auction of the archive of Martin Burgoyne, a friend of Madonna in the 1980s, included a number of unseen and unpublished photographs that offer a rare glimpse of the singer before she became a global superstar.

They show her in a relaxed state with friends, unencumbered by the burden of living in the public eye. In just a few short years, she would be transformed into one of the most famous people on the planet.

Madonna and Martin Burgoyne in the 1980s.
Image: Myers Fine Art

This transitional period between anonymity and fame is a particular draw to collectors.

In 2011, a set of Beatles photographs taken by 18 year old Mike Mitchell in 1964, just days after their storming performance on the Ed Sullivan show, sold for $362,000.

They capture the band as the hype around them reached fever pitch, reminding us that these pop icons who would go on to define their era were also simply young men in their early twenties.

In a similar vein, a set of photographs of Queen Elizabeth II performing in a series of pantomimes as a child sold in a December 2013 auction, making £3,200 ($5,249).

They too show a playful, youthful side to one of the most significant icons of the 20th century.

It’s not just photographs that can give us an indication of the roots of who these people would become. The upcoming sale of an archive of letters from Lucian Freud, written in his late teens, offer a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest painters of his generation.

These brief insights undoubtedly drive many collectors.

The question is, are the days of the unpublished archive over?

The proliferation of  methods by which celebrities are presented as attainable bring us closer to the figures that shape our culture, but has led to the loss of a level of mystique that was widespread in the analogue age.

It seems unlikely that such archives pertaining to today’s celebrities will be as widespread in the future as the democratising power of the internet systematically removes the barriers between the public and private.


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