Bowery Ball at NGV: celebrating Queer Performance art, fashion and Leigh Bowery’s Legacy

Leigh Bowery

On Friday 22 March 2024, the NGV International will transform into a vibrant oasis of queer art, music, and performance. The grounds will set the stage for a show-stopping, late-night queer party, the Bowery Ball, featuring drag, burlesque, voguing, music, and performance art.

The event, named in honour of Melbourne-born iconoclast Leigh Bowery, celebrates the flamboyant creativity and indomitable self-expression of Victoria’s LGBTIQA+ community. Bowery, a renowned twentieth-century performance artist, fashion designer and nightclub impresario, has left a lasting impact on the global queer culture.

The Bowery Ball will showcase performances from a slew of Australia’s most gifted contemporary artists, musicians, and provocateurs. The roster includes Logie-nominated drag diva Art Simone, award-winning burlesque “supervillain” Ruby Slippers, jazz pianist virtuoso Rosie Rai, and the drag king alter-egos of Danni Ray and Keely Windred, Dazza and Keif.

The Great Hall will form the beating heart of the event, treating guests to mainstage performances late into the evening from nightclub host and costumier Bettie Rosé, multi-award-winning sideshow artist Elle Diablo, and more. Meanwhile, the NGV Garden Restaurant will morph into a swanky piano bar, providing a cosy space for intimate performances and storytelling. The lineup here will include performances by NAIDOC Pride Award-winner 2Joocee, Krayola, and others throughout the evening.

As the Bowery Ball coincides with the NGV Triennial, guests will also have the opportunity to take tongue-in-cheek tours of the exhibition, led by some of the night’s performers, including Granny Bingo stalwarts and drag superstars.

In true homage to Bowery’s daring style, the dress code will encourage guests to create their own looks, inspired by Bowery’s iconic and audacious ensembles. The event will also feature a pink carpet and media wall on the Waterwall for attendees to flaish their custom ensembles.

Throughout the festivities, guests can indulge in Pommery Champagne and a selection of all-inclusive food and beverages.

Tickets to the event are priced at $175 and will be available for general sale from 7 December. American Express Card Members will be granted access to pre-sale tickets on 4 December.

The Bowery Ball is not just an event; it’s a bold celebration of the ongoing influence of the LGBTIQA+ community on Melbourne’s local art history and the global arts and culture scene. As Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV, expressed, the Bowery Ball aims to be a safe space for the community to express themselves with pride, honouring Leigh Bowery’s legacy.

For more details and ticket booking, visit NGV website.

Feature image: Leigh Bowery, Session I, Look 2, 1988, photograph. Courtesy: Michael Hoppen Gallery; photograph: © Fergus Greer