Artist Name(s) Curated by Stephen Brandes and Brigid Harte
Artwork title Superbia
Context/Background Breaking Ground - the Per Cent for Art programme for Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. - was launched in February 2002. Breaking Ground produced some of the most engaged, diverse and challenging public art projects in Ireland, and as such is widely recognised as the flagship for contemporary public art projects. At the time, Ballymun - a suburban neighbourhood in Dublin - was undergoing one of Europe’s biggest regeneration schemes, which saw 20,000 residents re-housed as part of a 10 year plan to rebuild the town.

Artist & Curator Stephen Brandes and Curator Brigid Harte were commissioned by Breaking Ground to make a work which in some way commented on the move some families were making from the old flats and houses into newer, better homes. 

‘Superbia’ was a temporary exhibition which was presented in a terraced house in Coultry Gardens, Ballymun, Dublin 9. The exhibition ran for over 3 weeks in September 2003. Fourteen Irish and international artists activated every room in the recently vacated house, with site-specific artworks and installations which responded to the interior domestic space of the former family home.

Participating Artists:

Hans op de Beeck, Matei Bejenaru, Shane Cullen, Brendan Earley, Malachi Farrell, Laura Gannon, Darragh Hogan, Anthony Kelly, Nick Laessing, Isabel Nolan, Joyce Pensato, Kay Roche, Samuel Rousseau and Ruth Shaw. ‘Superbia’ also presented a piece by Sarah Mangan (daughter of the previous inhabitants) and various artworks by  the pupils of Ballymun Senior Comprehensive School and Gaelscoil Bhaile Munna.

The invitation to the exhibition launch was designed to resemble a recognisable real estate agency brochure, and read:

You are cordially invited to view the above property, which is superbly situated in the heart of the north of the Dublin suburb of Ballymun. Within its walls a number of individuals have dealt with this family home as a living organism, have explored its mythical associations and have altered the way we see this familiar domestic environment. Welcome to Superbia”.

Site-specific Artworks (details)

On the front of the house, a vinyl banner designed by Jay Roche and Anthony Kelly presented a digital image of a milk drawing containing the word ‘Superbia’, proclaiming the exhibition open to the public. Within the entrance way, a ‘spyhole’ was concealed in a door by Ruth Shaw, offering a view of another room. On the wall of the corridor was a portrait by Brendan Early, who employed a Garda Special Branch ‘photofit’ expert to produce computer-generated images of his family members, based on his descriptions.

In the living room, a film by Matei Bejenaru of his native city Iasi, in Eastern Romania, was shown on the television. On the mantlepiece, a small family portrait by Hans Op de Beek was presented as a moving image. Shane Cullen created a wall installation of covers from 1970’s German progressive rock CD’s, suggestive of a ‘distinctive and exotic’ soundscape. Elsewhere in the room, photographs were presented by pupils from Ballymun Senior Comprehensive School.

Laura Gannon devised a tiled configuration for the kitchen, based on family portraits and 1950’s wallpaper designs. Samuel Rousseau placed a tiny artwork in the kitchen sink. “Caught in the plughole is a little figure pleading for our help – he is at our mercy”.

Within the stairwell, Nick Lessing installed a decorative chandelier which shuddered and rocked from side to side, suggestive of a supernatural presence or a natural disaster. Similarly, on the ceiling of the master bedroom, wiring from domestic appliances was configured to control a mechanised crucifix and metal figurine.

Bedroom 2 was covered in drawings by Sarah Mangan, the young daughter of the family who used live there, and a overtly kitsch wishing-well 'shrine' created by Darragh Hogan.

Bedroom 3 was formerly a nursery, and drawings by local children from the Gaelscoil Bhaile Munna were placed on the walls. Wall drawings of comic book characters by Joyce Pensato recalled spontaneous graffiti, while in the bathroom, Isabel Nolan presented an installation of towels, complete with hand sewn ‘eyes’.

"Superbia" was a hugely popular event and the conversion of a terraced house into a contemporary art gallery had the effect of encouraging those who might normally never go into an art gallery, to step inside and walk around downstairs and upstairs. Cups of tea were served often by the former resident mother of the house, Carmel Mangan, and the exhibition drew large visitor numbers over the course of its three week run. The terrace of houses was demolised soon after. 


Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith ‘Dublin: Superbia at 11 Coultry Gardens, Ballymun’, CIRCA, Issue 106, Winter 2003, p.p.88-89.

Jane Humphries ‘Crossing the Threshold: The Domestic House/Home as a Site for Contemporary Irish Art Installations’, Conference Paper, ‘Writing Irish Art’ Trinity College Dublin, 20 November 2010.

Peter Dowie ‘Cultural Regeneration in Ballymun: The Politics of Urban Memory and Socially Engaged Arts’ Practice’, Research Thesis, April 2012.


Stephen Brandes is an English artist who has been living in Cork since the early 2000's.

Brigid Harte was an Irish curator who was based in Paris and who died prematurely at the age of 45 in 2012.

Commission Type Local Authority,Regeneration Agency
Commissioner Name Aisling Prior, for Breaking Ground, Ballymun Regeneration Ltd
Commissioning process Selected through the open call of 2002. Curated, implemented and administered by Breaking Ground - the Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. Per Cent for Art scheme.
Project commission dates September 4, 2003 - September 27, 2003
Partners The Mangan family who allowed their former home to be used as the venue, site and context for Superbia and who invigilated the exhibition while it ran over the course of three weeks.
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts Participation
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 10000 - 30000 euro
Project commission start date 04/09/2003
Project commission end date 27/09/2003
Location 11 Coultry Gardens, Ballymun
County Dublin
Town Dublin 9
Content contributor(s) Web Editor and Stephen Brandes
Public engagement

The exhibition was open to the public from 4th – 27th September 2003

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Emma Kelly (Elevate PR)

The Mangan Family

Galerie Anne de Villepoix

RHA Gallery Staff

Tony O’Reilly (teacher - Ballymun Senior Comprehensive)

Ray Dempsey (Principal - Gaelscoil Bhaile Munna)


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