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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.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
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

Accession number: 2016.57

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Robyn Beeche (age 39 in 1984)

Leigh Bowery (age 23 in 1984)

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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
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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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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 both past and present.

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