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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

1984
Robyn Beeche

type C photograph on paper (sheet: 76.2 cm x 60.9 cm, image: 50.3 cm x 49.8 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 a series of arresting paintings by Lucian Freud. Following his death from HIV-related illness in London, he was buried in Australia beside his mother.

The late Robyn Beeche frequently created elaborate effects that she would then photograph straight – as opposed to manipulating the image. Bowery may be standing up against the Star Trek wallpaper on the walls of his flat in this photograph; elements of his outfit appear to be suspended from invisible threads or wires. Possibly, however, he lay on leftover wallpaper for the shot.

Gift of Claudia Hyles, Dr Christiane Lawin-Bruessel, Gwenda Matthews, Gael Newton, Anne O'Hehir, Susan Smith and Dominic Thomas in memory of our friend, Robyn Beeche 2016
© Robyn Beeche Foundation

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Robyn Beeche (age 39 in 1984)

Leigh Bowery (age 23 in 1984)

Donated by

Dominic Thomas (1 portrait)

Susan Smith (1 portrait)

Anne O'Hehir (1 portrait)

Gael Newton (1 portrait)

Gwenda Matthews (1 portrait)

Dr Christiane Lawin-Bruessel (1 portrait)

Claudia Hyles OAM (1 portrait)

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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
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Hyperversity

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2006

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

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Electric!

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Celebrate the Gallery’s 20th birthday summer with Electric! Portraits that pop! The collection exhibition features a mix of bright, bold and colourful paintings, prints and photographs, and buoyant video portraits.

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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