With the Australian artist Leigh Bowery (1961–1994), the Kunstverein Hannover devotes itself to one of the most colourful border crossers of the London club, fashion, and art scene of the 1980s and 1990s. Bowery, who moved from Australia to London in 1980, made his (homo)sexuality a means of aesthetic expression, and he consciously used his own body in his excessive abundance as an artistic media. His costumes, masquerades, and travesties investigate the concepts of fashion and the body at the boundaries to the most diverse social fields. Bowery employs his own physical bulkiness as the starting point of an extroverted and extravagant body cult in which the concepts of ugliness and beauty, social standardisation and border crossings intersect.
The result was an art figure under whom Bowery himself completely disappeared and which influenced in various areas. Bowery thus inspired Lucian Freud to one of his most fascinating nude paintings. He was discovered by the London art dealer Anthony d’Offay in 1988, and Bowery posed every day in the gallery’s shop window wearing different costumes during his “exhibition.”
This first performance in an art context was the start of a cooperation with the Photo er Fergus Greer who would accompany him until his early death in 1994 resulting from an HIV infection. Greer captured Bowery’s eccentric poses in always new, self-made outfits in over 200 studio Photo s that still represent the easy-going sunny side, the spotless surface of his oeuvre that would become a decisive stylistic influence for such diverse artists and art personalities as Boy George, Vivienne Westwood, and Alexander McQueen. The fact that an oeuvre opens up behind this eccentric fashion façade which penetrated into previously unknown abysms beyond the club scene between Punk ballet and SM performances, makes it especially interesting to deal with the Bowery’s art figure.
After his death, the elegant glossy Photo s became the impressive legacy of a tireless work in and of itself and his art figure on the one hand, but on the other hand they make the reception of this work that branches out behind the surface into diverse subcultures more difficult.
Aside from the costumes and fashion Photos, the exhibition in the Kunstverein Hannover essentially also wants to examine the border crosser between art and subculture, between body cult and the aesthetics of ugliness, between queer cult and homoerotic outcome – and to thus make Leigh Bowery visible under his manifold camouflages as one of the most colourful and productive artists at the border between high und bow, between art history and club culture.
The exhibition that will take place in conjunction with the “Hannover Goes Fashion” project will be accompanied by a catalogue.