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Art and Commerce, Part 1

Every Man Also Gave Him a Piece of Money, by William Blake

Where any view of money exists, art cannot be carried on.

-William Blake

The idea that money, patronage and trade automatically corrupt the wells of imagination is a pious fiction, believed by some utopian lefties and a few people of genius such as Blake but flatly contradicted by history itself. . . . On the whole, money does artists much more good than harm. The idea that one benefits from cold water, crusts, and debt collectors is now almost extinct, like belief in the reformatory power of flogging.

-Robert Hughes

Much as I admire Blake, I think the wonderfully trenchant Hughes wins this round. I would love to forget about money and provide for my family with nothing more than artistic vision and good intentions. But if there’s a secret to doing that, no one has let me in on it yet (send all correspondence to!) For most people in creative professions, commerce makes art possible, and I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.

All of this is a rather long wind-up to the latest AIA Firm Survey Report, which you can find here. According to the report, aggregate billings by architecture firms have now returned to pre-recession levels. Profitability is up, and diversity has increased or held steady, depending what is measured. While these gains are not evenly distributed, the overall picture is clearly better than it was eight years ago. Here’s wishing everyone a healthy share of the recovery, and may a more robust commerce bring us ever more art.

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Architectural Photographer

Charlotte, NC


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