Part of an original photograph of Leigh Bowery with a black cat, by Mike Owen. His last photo shoot for Freedom Cafe, November 1994.
Leigh Bowery in November 1994. Photo: Mike Owen.

The Fitzrovia Chapel starts off 2022 with a special exhibition celebrating the life and work of the performance artist, club promoter and fashion designer Leigh Bowery.

Spanning the world of art, fashion, and music, Bowery pushed his body through ever more extreme creations, designed to shock and thrill.

As a model he sat for painters and photographers: his large naked and bald form becoming as recognisable as his outlandish and ornately decorated costumes and creations.

He died of Aids on New Year’s Eve 1994 at the Middlesex Hospital which once stood in Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia.

Only his close friend Sue Tilley knew he was ill and he told her that when he died to: “Tell them I’ve gone to Papua New Guinea to help the natives.”

This month in the former Middlesex Hospital Chapel — the only part of the hospital to survive the demolition wrecking ball — a display of his costumes and portraits will be presented together with a short film featuring interviews with some of closest friends and collaborators: Nicola Bateman, Sue Tilley, Boy George, Les Child, Richard Torry, David Holah, and Lee Benjamin.

Dr Rob Miller, who looked after Bowery when he was at the Middlesex, and who is now a trustee of the chapel, will also be interviewed.

Artist Charles Atlas will have his film The Legend of Leigh Bowery played as part of the exhibition.

Leigh Bowery: Tell Them I’ve Gone to Papua New Guinea. From Friday 7 January to Sunday 6 February 2022, at The Fitzrovia Chapel, 2 Pearson Square, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3BF. Admission is free but visits must be booked in advance.

Talks & Tours: Nicola Bateman gives a guided tour of the exhibition looking at the stories behind the individual costumes (date tbc); Sue Tilley (Bowery’s close friend and biographer) in conversation with Gregor Muir (Director of Collections, International Art at Tate Modern) about Bowery‘s life and work, 6.30pm to 7.30pm Wednesday 2 February 2022. See The Fitzrovia Chapel.