A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box)

A film by Vermeir & Heiremans

In their film, A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box), Vermeir & Heiremans, who are also the film’s protagonists, discuss a new financial model with a lawyer. Their dialogue, witnessed by the lawyer’s assistant, focuses on the question if financialisation can be repurposed towards generating a more equitable arts ecology.

Considering the financialisation of public art collections, museum real estate and symbolic capital, the financial model should benefit not only investors and art institutions, but also its stakeholders, the creators of the art assets’ value, the artists and art workers.

In the film the artists propose to financialise a specific building as their first case study: Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park. 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.

The conversation between the artists and the lawyer takes place in Vermeir & Heiremans’ house, which in their practice they define as an art work. Meanwhile the seemingly absent-minded assistant often slips away from the discussions. She appears to be able to materialise and dematerialise at will the lofty space by caressing the walls, playing with the miniature furniture inside a scale model of the artists’ house or using the latter as a framing device, manipulating the window views.

When the artists and the lawyer go on to discuss and celebrate the proposal on the loft’s rooftop garden, glass of champagne in hand, she takes control…

Watch the film on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/290694804

password: AMP2018


HD Video, 28′ 7″, sound & colour, UK-Belgium, 2018


Vermeir & Heiremans as the artists

Luke Mason as the legal consultant

Heike Langsdorf as the assistant

Directors: Vermeir & Heiremans

Camera: Amir Borenstein

Editors: Katleen vermeir/Amir Borenstein

Sound: Justin Bennett

Organ Player: Cindy Castillo

Voice-over: Emily Rosamond

Script: vermeir & Heiremans/Luke Mason

Graphic design: Salome Schmuki

Animation: Amir Borenstein


Production: Jubilee vzw

With the support of:

The Flemish Community

Art et Recherche asbl

Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles

Pump House Gallery

Wandsworth Council

Enable Leisure and Culture

Art Council England

Cockayne-Grants for the Arts

The London Community Foundation


Presentations to date:

A Modest Proposal – Rethinking Art, Law, and Urban Renewal, film screening and panel discussion at the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg (Denmark, 2020)

Rencontres Internationales Berlin (2019)

11th Critical Finance Studies Conference, lecture and screening at the University of Birmingham (2019)

The art of equity / The equity of art, lecture and book presentation at WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2019)

A Modest Proposal, one-day symposium at the Royal College of Art, London (2018)

A Modest Proposal, a lecture for The Atlantic Project, festival of contemporary art, at the Council House, Plymouth (2018)

A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box), a solo exhibition at Pump House Gallery, London (2018)

A Modest Proposal, a publication by Vermeir & Heiremans (2018)


Reviews and reflections:

Zeynep Kubat, ‘Kop of munt: financiële verbeelding in de kunst‘, in: Rekto:Verso, August 29 2019 (in Dutch)

Dirk De Wit, ‘Naar een wederkerig werken in de kunst‘, in: Boekman Stichting, 2020 (in Dutch)

Selection overview of press, reviews and reflections on Vermeir & Heiremans practice (2009-2020)