We describe a filter-based model of orientation processing in primary visual cortex (V1) and demonstrate that novelty in cortical “pinwheel” space can be used as a measure of perceptual salience. In the model, novelty is computed as the negative log likelihood of a pinwheel’s activity relative to the population response. The population response is modeled using a mixture of Gaussians, enabling the representation of complex, multi-modal distributions. Hidden variables that are inferred in the mixture model can be viewed as grouping or “binding” pinwheels which have similar responses within the distribution space. Results are shown for several stimuli that illustrate well-known contextual effects related to perceptual salience, as well as results for a natural image.