Thursday April 6 The British School at Rome’s Contemporary Arts Programme presents Taboo, the first Italian exhibition dedicated to Leigh Bowery (Sunshine, Australia 1961–London 1994), the legendary personality on the London “alternative” scene during the Eighties and Nineties. The title “Taboo” comes from the name of the club –“animated” by Bowery every Thursday in the period 1985 – 1986 at the Maximus in Leicester Square - that was a vital reference point for the creative scene during those years. The project, curated by Cristiana Perrella, followed the exploration of the crossover of music and visual art in British culture that the Contemporary Arts Programme has developed over the years.
Taboo. The Art of Leigh Bowery and London Club Culture is an in-depth and revealing tribute to an outrageous and outlandish artist. As a performer, fashion designer, aspiring pop star and model for Lucian Freud, Bowery has passed through every expressive language possible, with a rare and visionary freedom, influencing a generation of artists and designers. The British School of Rome will show a selection of the artist’s costumes, accessories and headpieces. Alongside them, a rich section of rare footage (including the video from his performances at the Anthony d’Offay gallery in 1988), and portraits taken by leading photographers such as Fergus Greer, Nick Knight, Annie Leibovitz, all of who have immortalised his amazing looks. The archive selection collects the Taboo flyers, instant snapshots taken during the London club nights, letters and other material able to recreate the special atmosphere that surrounded Bowery in London at that time. A special section of the show is dedicated to the collaboration between Bowery and Lucian Freud: it includes photographs by Bruce Bernard taken during sessions where Bowery posed in the artist’s studio, three etchings by Freud which portray Bowery as a model, and a cape made from rags used by Freud to clean his brushes, sporting a large portrait of Hitler. From his arrival in London after leaving his Australian place of birth – clutching a suitcase and a sewing machine – right up to his passing away from AIDS on New Year’s Eve in 1994, Leigh Bowery personified better than any other the hedonistic spirit, the unconventional and wildly creative personality from the London club culture of those years, itself a radiant and dazzling reaction against the depression and the ultra conservative morals of the Thatcherite era. A larger than life muse and icon on the London underground scene, Bowery has collaborated with some of his generation’s most fervidly creative minds, like the choreographer Michael Clark, the directors John Maybury, Charles Atlas, Dick Jewell and the musician Boy George. Outside of galleries and museums, his art was made possible by the punk movement and close to the New Romantics, but without really being tied to any one fashion or tendency.