Caveat is a collective research project initiated by Jubilee, reflecting and acting on the ecology of artistic practice. Emptor continues along the methodology and efforts of Caveat. It actively applies the practice-based approach to 'property', a concept that highly defines the economy of visual arts.

Vermeir & Heiremans


Vermeir & Heiremans' project, A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box), investigates if financialisation can be repurposed as a tool to create more equitable conditions. The artists’ proposal suggests that financialising public art collections, museum real estate and their symbolic capital could create a cycle of wealth that will benefit not only investors and institutions, but also the creators of these values, the original stake-holders—the artists and art workers.

As their first case study, Vermeir & Heiremans propose to financialise a specific building: Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park (London), the location of a solo exhibition by the artists that was equally titled A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box) (2018). The gallery is located in the vicinity of the Battersea Power Station, a 20th century former coal-fired power station, currently under re-development. It will house Apple’s London headquarters and offers luxury apartments for sale, designed by Frank Gehry and Foster and Partners. All in all an excellent momentum to leverage rising values that surround the gallery, to ‘pump’ up the building’s value as an asset, and generate a return on investment for the wider art community.

Seeking to mobilise the main financial asset of Pump House Gallery – the building itself, the financialisation of the gallery real estate was considered as a case study. How could Pump House Gallery become true to its original design as a 'pump house', leveraging all rising values, both monetary and cultural, that surround it? Could it become a power house for the benefit of the whole art community, providing an artist dividend?

The exhibition centres on the financial model, held on a USB stick that is itself enclosed within a 3D-printed metal lattice structure, The Black Box. In an accompanying video, a lawyer Luke Mason recites the clauses of a contract being developed for the prospectus of the financial model. As described in the contract, in order to access the proposal, the artwork within which it is sealed must first be purchased by an art institution, and subsequently destroyed, to access the financial model.

A promotional video introduces the model and the benefits and opportunities it offers to a variety of stakeholders. The main video piece introduces the artists duo Vermeir & Heiremans and Luke Mason debating the financial model and its possible impact.

A Modest Proposal aims to benefit artists and art workers, but its implementation raises some fundamental questions: can values originating from public goods be claimed for the benefit of specific stakeholders, or should the funds rather be redistributed through a political process?

These pressing questions were addressed during a symposium at Royal College of Arts, London (2018) for which Vermeir & Heiremans invited a number of speakers working in the fields of financial geography, art and law. Their contributions have been published in A Modest Proposal, a publication edited by Vermeir & Heiremans and published by Jubilee (2018).

In 2020, along with lawyer and legal philosopher Luke Mason, Vermeir & Heiremans launched a cross-disciplinary project entitled 7 Walks. This site-specific project questions how re-imagining legal concepts can contest the absoluteness of property ownership. The artists and Mason argue that understanding property relations in a more stratified way, is essential to better protect both natural and social commons. Overall this could contribute to more sustainable and equitable practices to govern natural and artistic resources. Deeply embedded within Caveat's new property-focused chapter Emptor, the project's latest instalment to date, 7 Walks (resolution), draws inspiration from the intangible legacy of historical walkers. Strongly anchored in a local context, it invites its participants to explore a balance between private property of and access to resources that we hold in common as a society.


Katleen Vermeir and Ronny Heiremans live and work in Brussels. Through their work, Vermeir & Heiremans investigate the complex relationship between art, architecture and the economy in today’s highly globalised world. Having designated their own house an art work, the artists use this ‘house as artwork’ concept as a framing device that questions the role the arts play within the ever-growing entanglement of finance, urban development and governance. Their practice employs financial tools, historical references, technology, and cinematic language to reflect on social codes as well as on the production of value in today’s artistic and non-artistic realms.



Notes (participant)