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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Leigh Bowery in Fur Coat, c. 1983 (printed 2005)

David Gwinnutt

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 40.2 cm x 30.4 cm, image: 38.8 cm x 28.2 cm)

Leigh Bowery (1961-1994), London-based designer and nightclub performer, was born in Sunshine, Victoria, and schooled in Melbourne before briefly studying fashion design. In 1980 he moved to London, where he began selling clothes at Kensington Market. In 1983 he performed at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts; in 1984 he travelled to New York and Japan to show his clothes, and made his first club appearance. Through the rest of the 1980s and the early 1990s his performances, both alone and in aggregations such as the Quality Street Wrappers, Raw Sewage and Minty, became increasingly extravagant, obscene and subversive. Central to London’s fashion and art scenes, Bowery is credited with influencing Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano. From 1990 he posed for painter Lucian Freud, exposing his giant body for a number of arresting paintings. Following his death from HIV-related illness in London, he was buried in Australia beside his mother.

David Gwinnutt began recording the club scene in London in the early 1980s, imagining himself as ‘the Cecil Beaton of his generation’. Over the years he ran into Bowery from time to time in clubs such as Heaven and the aptly-named, short-lived Taboo. In this photograph Bowery wears elements of one of his most famous early ‘looks’, ‘Pakis from Outer Space’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2005
© David Gwinnutt

Accession number: 2005.86

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

David Gwinnutt (age 22 in 1983)

Leigh Bowery (age 22 in 1983)

Related portraits

1. Leigh Bowery, 1984. All Robyn Beeche.

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Leigh Bowery in Fur Coat, c. 1983  (printed 2005) David Gwinnutt
Leigh Bowery in Fur Coat, c. 1983  (printed 2005) David Gwinnutt
Leigh Bowery in Fur Coat, c. 1983  (printed 2005) David Gwinnutt
Leigh Bowery in Fur Coat, c. 1983  (printed 2005) David Gwinnutt

Hyperversity

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2006

Dr Sarah Engledow writes about the larger-than-life Australian performance artist, Leigh Bowery.

Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole
Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole
Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole
Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole

Express Yourself

Previous exhibition, 2018

This exhibition celebrates Australians whose unique life experiences symbolise social and cultural forces. Uncompromising individuality defines them. The portraits are drawn from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection of contemporary photography and drawing.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

The Gallery

Explore portraiture and come face to face with Australian identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.