Leigh Bowery (1961-1994) was one of the worlds’ most influential cult figures, performance artists, fashion designers, nightclub proprietors, and art objects, in the 1980s and 1990s. He was above all an icon whose influence traversed music, art, film and the fashion world.
“No amount of film could fully capture the many facets of Leigh’s art”. – Fergus Greer
He is perhaps best-known for his role as a life model for some of Lucian Freud’s most iconic paintings; ironic for the man who was infamous for his costumes.
Bowery arrived in London in 1980 from Sunshine, Australia, collaborated notoriously with the dancer Michael Clark, and was the proprietor of the infamous 1980s Soho nightclub, ‘Taboo’.
In the 1990s, he created performances which both delighted and outraged audiences in New York, London and Tokyo, and it is these enactments which are captured in LEIGH BOWERY – LOOKS, at the Michael Hoppen Gallery, March 7th – April 27th, 2019.
This exhibition, curated 25 years after Leigh Bowery’s passing, is a beguiling guide to the looks designed and, in the photographs, worn by him.
One of Britain’s most heroically ambitious performance artists, Bowery remains an inspiration to many contemporary fashion designers today and in the exhibition, Fergus Greer: Leigh Bowery – Looks, you can easily see why.
Over 15 photographs are being showcased, from an extraordinary body of work which was the outcome of Bowery’s collaboration with British photographer, Fergus Greer, between 1988 and 1994, the year Bowery passed away.
These inspired portrait photographs, in colour and in black and white, are the manifestation of Greer’s enduring relationship with a unique artist. His influential work gives rich access to the colourful, ever-changing and unpredictable man, and have captured for posterity the inspiration behind Bowery’s improvisation and the chameleon-like nature of his personality.
Leigh Bowery (26 March 1961 – 1 January 1995) was an Australian performance artist, club promoter, and fashion designer. Bowery was known for his flamboyant costumes and makeup as well as his (sometimes controversial) performances. Based in London for much of his adult life, he was a significant model and muse for the English painter Lucian Freud. Bowery’s friend and fellow performer Boy George said he saw Bowery’s outrageous performances a number of times, and that it “never ceased to impress or revolt.
Bowery was born and raised in Sunshine, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. From an early age, he studied music, played piano, and went on to study fashion and design at RMIT for a year. He moved to London in 1980: ‘I was so itchy to see new things and to see the world that I just left’, he said in 1987. There he found himself part of the New Romantic club scene. He worked in a clothing shop and appeared in commercials for Pepe Jeans. He soon became an influential and lively figure in the underground clubs of London and New York, as well as in art and fashion circles. He attracted attention by wearing wildly outlandish and creative outfits that he made himself.
He was known as a club promoter and created the club called Taboo, which began as an underground party, and then opened as a club in 1985. Taboo soon became “the place to be” with long queues for those waiting to get in. Drugs, particularly ecstasy, became a part of the dancing scene for the attendees. The club was known for defying sexual convention, for embracing “polysexualism”, for creating a wild atmosphere, and for playing unexpected song selections.
Looks – Leigh Bowery Photographs by Fergus Greer, Michael Hoppen Galler London – March 7th- April 27th, 2019.