This project enables Johannesburg to claim “the world’s first city art gallery” status, with Sibande as the first contemporary artist to have her work exposed on the massive urban canvas. “It’s a dream - for the first time artworks took the place usually reserved for alcohol, cigarette, insurance and beauty advertising,” says CEO Lesley Perkes. “To have the funding to compete with the commercial world is a triumph of the imagination and shows that the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund is seriously committed to making a significant contribution to contemporary art and especially to public art in South Africa. And this is just the beginning: the exhibition heralds an annual exhibition, showcasing a different international artist every year.”
According to Sibande, whose striking images of Sophie, a domestic worker, sold out at her solo exhibition at Gallery Momo last year,
“Sophie is the woman I could have been, because there are women in my family who had to feed their families by working as maids. I didn’t have to, so this is my tribute to these women.”
Long live the Dead Queen was selected to debut this world-first intervention implemented for the Central Johannesburg Partnership by artatwork. “I am tremendously pleased to see Mary literally making it this big. She is one of our most talented young practitioners, celebrated here and abroad and now we have a democratic exhibition where people who don’t hang out in galleries can enjoy her work,” says Mary’s gallerist, Monna Mokoena of Gallery Momo.
Joburgers put on their pumps and danced with Sophie, as she kicked up her heels and stepped out of invisibility, poverty and silence and into the dreams of South Africans, taking them on skycraper-high ride on the coat-tails of her fabulous fantasies.