If you believe the charmed world of Instagram, art emerges fully-formed from the white-walled studios of young artists with perfect hair and attractive teeth. The reality is murkier. Art is the product of a fragile eco-system at the junction of culture and money, a perpetual balancing act of competing interests. At the center of this system are the accountants.
I have been thinking about accounting a lot after reading “The Merchant of Prato” by Iris Origo, a masterful biography of medieval trader Francisco Datini. I had picked up the book to learn about medieval textiles, dyeing and embroidery but I ended up being mesmerized by the importance of the role of accounting. Datini, a successful trader and art dealer, bought low and sold high. He also was a skilled accountant who kept detailed records of all his transactions. The book is a primer on the business of art.
Art is a huge business. Think of all those art supplies, workshops, books and paint-with-a-twist gatherings, plus all the professional art, big and small. Then there are the accountants, who know precisely how and where and what is happening.
I like accountants. For a few years I supported myself by working for a local accounting firm where I discovered truly kind people who love helping their clients. Good accountants tell it like it is. They bring clarity and offer solutions.
Last November, a dear friend who is a CPA guided me through the steps of setting up my business in Quickbooks. The job was well below her skill set and she displayed infinite patience throughout my bafflement. Later that month, a tax accountant whom I consulted went out of his way to make multiple phone calls and provide great advice on another matter. I had been hesitant to ask for help. Both times I was met with generosity and clarity.
About clarity: now that my business has been set up, that I am dutifully recording my financial transactions and reconciling my bank account every month, I know exactly what I am up to. It’s sobering - to say the least - and I have had many moments wondering if this is even worth the effort. To start a business is not easy. Adding the extra pressure of selling a creative output during a pandemic makes for an extraordinarily challenge.
I have spent time pondering my options. I have been making lists, sketching, reading, researching, talking to a few friends. But every path leads back to the same spot: I must keep creating. If numbers are one side of the equation, the other side is the magical aspect of creation. The mistake would be to lose one for the other.
I am a magician. I am in the business of bringing you a different view of the world. Sometimes I lead you with thread and images, sometimes with words. At the core though, is always the desire to feed your spirit.
How and when business will blossom, what precise form it will take will be worked out a step at a time. For now, clarity of purpose is enough and I thank the accountants for bringing it about.