An artistic research on the ecology of artistic practice


Emptor, a chapter that is being set up from 2021 onwards by Jubilee, continues along the methodology and efforts of Jubilee’s collective research project Caveat, actively applying the practice-based approach to ‘property’, an element that highly defines the economy of visual arts. Just as ‘the contract’ functioned as a filter and landing stage in Caveat, ‘property’ functions as a central notion, linking different discussions and research trajectories.


Opening the question: How can we practice ‘property’ for a sustainable visual arts field? Emptor has the ambition to collectively question our positions in the economy of the arts today and open up new narratives that create space for reflection and action. Defining what is the artwork, how it can be exhibited, conserved and sold is an ever more delicate and complex question within today’s visual art practice – as it is often collaborative, performative, internet-based, audiovisual, immaterial in its form. However, property of this artwork still remains the central element in its economy.


Even if visual art practices challenge roles on the field by setting conditions for materialisation or acquisition, the notion of ownership itself always remains. Discussions rarely focus on collaboration but circle around ownership of a material object (artwork, contract, display, protocol).


Remarkably enough, and despite all the avant-garde positions that artists occupy, the economy of the art world functions by the same principle as the larger economy: private property. Seth Siegelaub, the New York gallerist and curator who caused a furor with the introduction of an artist contract in the late 1960s, already wrote in one of his letters that he could not understand why: “…artists, you have allowed the sale of your art to be the only way to receive direct compensation from the use of your art.”


60 years later, the same problems are still present. Taking into account the many urges that confront our society today, Emptor thinks it is the right moment to put ownership issues back at the center of discussion. Carefully selected artistic practices and their inspiration will feed reflections within Assemblies of Practice and Reading Rooms, allowing for common concerns to come to the surface.


Through collaborations with arts organisations and researchers from legal and arts fields, Emptor aims at translating these concerns to daily artistic and legal practice, and acting upon them in dialogue.


By actively using mapping and co-writing as tools throughout the collective research, questions will be extrapolated to other domains, contextualised and accessible for the public through the website. In so doing, Emptor continues the quest for a shift from an economy to an ecology of the arts together with all those concerned.


Artists involved so far are Kobe Matthys (Agency/Agentschap/Agence), Katya Ev, Ciel Grommen & Maximiliaan Royakkers, Grace Ndiritu, Vermeir & Heiremans, and Clémentine Vaultier.

Reflection partners include: a.pass (Brussels), BUDA (Kortrijk), CIAP/FLACC (Genk), Kunsthal Gent.


As Emptor continues the methodology of Caveat, taking its concepts to a different perspective, the Emptor activities and trajectories are part of the existing Caveat project website.