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Leigh Bowery
, 1984

by Robyn Beeche

type C photograph (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, Canberra
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
Accession number: 2016.57