A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box)

Solo exhibition by Vermeir & Heiremans at Pump House Gallery, London

03/10 – 16/12/2018
Curated by Ned McConnell

Pump House Gallery presents A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box), an exhibition by Belgian artist duo Vermeir & Heiremans. Developed over the past two years, the new work investigates how current approaches to financialisation could be redirected towards a more equitable model by considering the financialisation of public art collections, museum real estate and symbolic capital.

In collaboration with financial sector workers, lawyers and academic researchers, the artists are developing a financial model that would benefit not only investors and art institutions, but also the artists and art workers. This would create an ecology where value generated by artistic practices is distributed more sustainably amongst all stakeholders.

Seeking to mobilise the main financial asset of Pump House Gallery – the building itself, Vermeir & Heiremans decided to consider the financialisation of the gallery real estate as their 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 and become a power house for the benefit of the whole art community?

In their first UK exhibition since 2009, the artists have developed several exhibition and research elements including video, installation and a display of archival material. The exhibition centres on the financial model, held on a USB stick that is itself enclosed within a 3D-printed metal lattice structure, only reachable should one break the edifice. A promotional video introduces the model and the benefits and opportunities it offers to a variety of stakeholders. Archival material about the Battersea area and the Pump House Gallery building is presented alongside the video to create a parallel narrative about real estate and land speculation in Battersea since the Victorian era.

Battersea has seen a vast increase in investment in recent years, and this project seeks to harness the surplus values thus generated and develop a sustainable cycle of value. This raises further questions as to who should receive the return on investment: should it be channelled directly into art institutions and art workers, or re-directed back into a public purse, for use determined by democratic processes? A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box) invites us to consider the dynamics between art and the economy, and the value of culture in between.

Saturday 27 October, time to be confirmed
Royal College of Art, Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre

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 be redistributed through a political process? Can these values be reinvested in the institutions for art and its producers, in line with the museum’s goals and tasks? Or should a parliamentary debate attribute these resources, making them available for healthcare, education or even military expenses etc.
Read more…


Supported by Wandsworth Council, Arts Council England, Cockayne – Grants for the Arts and The London Community Foundation.
Produced by Jubilee with the support of the Flemish Community, A/R asbl and Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles

Pump House Gallery
Address: Battersea Park, London SW11 4NJ
Telephone: +44 20 3959 0021
Opening hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 11-16h. Closed Monday and Tuesday and between exhibitions. Admission free


Read more about the exhibition at Pump House Gallery…

Read more about the film A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box),

Read more about this research project here