Review: Bowery Ball @ NGV (Melbourne)

If you happened to walk along St Kilda Road on Friday evening (22 March) you would have experienced an incredible visual treat. Passers-by who caught a glimpse of the guests lining up to enter the Bowery Ball were staring in awe, pulling out phones and taking videos with no shame.

Bowery Ball - Image © Wendell Teodoro (Getty Images for NGV)

With so many jaw-dropping costumes and outfits, and some incredibly unique looks to boot, it’s easy to see why they were eager to capture the moment. But those fortunate enough to have a ticket to walk through the doors to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), on the night of Bowery Ball, were in for an even bigger treat.

The fabulous and all-encompassing event was named and themed in honour of Melbourne-born iconoclast Leigh Bowery, with many guests taking heavy inspiration from Bowery’s approach to style in the creation of their outfits. Everyone – and I mean everyone – brought their A-game, more than meeting the brief of 'dress like your life depends on it or don’t bother'. The guests themselves provided a feast for the eyes, but in addition, the gallery came to life, and an array of incredible performers made the night one to truly remember.

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Art Simone - Image © Graham Denholm (Getty Images for NGV)

The evening featured three performance spaces and attendees were also given the opportunity to explore the NGV Triennial’s ground floor exhibitions – either on their own or as part of one of the night’s special ‘unauthorised’ tours. These hilarious experiences were each unique, with different performers running the tours with their own flair. The first cabs off the rank were drag superstars Art Simone, Lazy Susan, and Zelda Moon. The trio led a raucous group through the galleries, providing very little factual information but plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Hearing Art Simone’s distinctive accent describing the kind of artwork deemed worthy of taking up space in one of the country’s leading galleries was a genuine highlight.

The performance spaces included the gallery’s Great Hall and the Garden, each with an incredible line-up of drag, burlesque and performance artists. Early on, Ruby Slippers captivated the crowd, bursting out of a very Bowery-inspired egg costume to the sound of 'Love Is In The Air', setting the bar high. At the same time, it was a more relaxed environment in the Garden, but many eyes were fixed on Kitty Obsidian and Miss Tea as they unveiled their rope artistry.

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Image © Wendell Teodoro (Getty Images for NGV)

As the night unfolded, the line to the third performance space, the cabaret and karaoke lounge steadily grew longer, with crowds excited by the idea of unleashing their inner diva with piano accompaniment. The space was heaving as crowds danced and sang along, and the more confident among the throng getting up and showing us what they were made of.

Across the course of the night, it was the little details that made the event a stand-out. Attentive and friendly staff kept glasses filled, catering was plentiful and consistent throughout the night, and when bathroom breaks were needed, there was a staff member handing out paper towels at the basin, where a tray of extra bobby pins, hairspray and perfume were on hand. It’s just the small things can take events like this to the next level and the team from the NGV really delivered.

As the event began to wrap up, plates of Golden Gaytime ice-creams were circulated, a fitting snack to close things out. The Bowery Ball was a raging success, with the NGV proving that they can throw the kind of party that is not to be missed.

This story originally appeared on our sister site, scenestr.