Carnivalesque: Leigh Bowery 

Curated by Timothy Hyman

6 May - 2 July 2000

Leigh Bowery was a performance artist, fashion designer, nightclub sensation, art object, aspiring pop-star and an icon who influenced the music, art film and fashion worlds. As stated by Roger Malbert in the exhibition catalogue published by Hayward Gallery Publ. (2000), In Britain, the lack of a masked carnival tradition is to some extent compensated for by the gay and fetish club scene where people recreate themselves and parade as outlandishly as any fashionable Regency ‘monstrosity’. The most famous exponent of transgressive masquerade in London in 1980s and early ‘90s was Leigh Bowery, performance artist and costume designer, who performed with the dancer Michael Clark and modelled for Lucian Freud.


The exhibition, designed and installed by his wife Nicola Bateman, was a display of his curious costumes and artefacts. A video film played a sequence of Bowery’s performance at Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London in October 1988, while cabinets of his paraphernalia and extravagant clothes hanging from the gallery ceiling challenged conventional perspectives on the meaning of dressing. At the same time, the exhibition acted as a tribute to the memory of one of the most bizarre and genial minds of club culture.


During Brighton Festival, the touring show Carnivalesque, curated by artist and writer Timothy Hyman and organised in partnership with the Hayward Gallery, London and Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, presented an exploration of ‘the carnival sense of the world’ in Western art from the Middle Ages to the present day.