Leigh Bowery Biography

Artist, Fashion Designer (1961–1994)
Leigh Bowery was an Australian fashion designer, club promoter and performance artist, known as the proprietor of the hedonistic London nightclub Taboo.


Leigh Bowery was born in 1961 in Sunshine, Victoria, Australia. Bowery moved to London at a young age, establishing himself as a fashion designer and flamboyant nightlife fixture. In 1985, Bowery opened the disco and fetish nightclub Taboo. Bowery remained active in art and theater circles until his death from AIDS-related illness in 1994.

Early Life

Avant-garde designer and nightclub promoter Leigh Bowery was born on March 26, 1961, in Sunshine, Victoria, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. From a young age, Bowery felt alienated from his conservative surroundings. He first learned about London and the New Romantic scene through British fashion magazines.

Designer and Performance Artist

Bowery moved to London for good in 1980, after taking a fashion course in high school. He became a known fixture at local clubs, in part for wearing outlandish outfits of his own design.

In London, Bowery soon befriended fellow clubbers Guy Barnes (known as Trojan) and David Walls. The three men moved in together, and Bowery outfitted his friends in his creative designs. The trio became known on the London club scene as the "Three Kings."

Bowery found some success as a designer, showing several collections at the London Fashion Week show, as well as in New York and Tokyo. He was best known, however, as a club promoter and London nightlife fixture. In 1985, Bowery opened the disco club nightclub Taboo. Originally an underground party, Taboo quickly became London's answer to Studio 54. Taboo was known for its defiance of sexual convention, and its embrace of what Bowery called "polysexual" identities.

In addition to his club activities, Bowery participated in performance art, and was well-connected within the art and theater circles of London. He often performed in face paint, lurex clothing and masks, relishing the opportunity to shock and flout convention whenever possible. Bowery also served as a model, posing nude for some of Lucien Freud's later portraits.

Personal life

Leigh Bowery, who had identified as gay for many years, married his friend, Nicola Bateman, in May 1994. Only a few close friends were aware that Bowery had contracted AIDS before his death from AIDS-related illness, which occurred in London on New Year's Eve in 1994, seven months after his marriage to Bateman.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!