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Chapter Thirteen

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Good art is good business – Andy Warhol

While making the wall space of Baszta available to artists, as one potential partner after the next slipped through my fingers, I was never able to take the time or advantage of the opportunity to return to my own artwork. Often reflecting on why my doctor left his clinic behind and ran off to Ireland, most of my days were being wasted tending to relentless bureaucratic demands. Because I was not a citizen of an EU country, by law it was obligatory to obtain a Polish limited liabilities business permit, which involved excessive monthly accounting fees, while tending to mountains of detailed paperwork that was also required to be filed on a monthly basis. On top of this, seemingly endless hours were expended the first three months of each year re-applying for both my residency and work permit. Whereas in the US tax filings are yearly, in Poland, the complicated process happens monthly. Far worse, by virtue of having a limited liabilities company, I was treated as if my tiny business was a large corporate operation. Invaluable time of my managers and assistants was wasted complying with a litany of petty requirements. Aside from lacking such critically important experience, often neither they or I had time to tend to critical daily business matters. If that weren’t enough to cope with, in the eyes of many young Poles I was just another sleazy businessperson. I endured the same fate that had haunted my Polish friend, who owned and rented kiosks, for which he was branded a notorious traitor after his own lawyer royally screwed him over.

One of my unrealized art exhibition fantasies was to present an installation of the mountains of bureaucratic and legal documents I had been collecting.

When talking to young Poles, I frequently came up against anachronistic prejudices that had been passed down to them by their elders, who had lived through traumatic times. Usually they were from the generation of my Landlord, who was in her late 40s. When radio journalist, Lisa Romanienko, asked me why my Landlord did not want her identity revealed, this is what I diplomatically told her:

“I won’t say all that I think, but I suspect that she does not want her fans to know that she was a business owner and entrepreneur, because there is a myth held over from the communist era that particularly people in the arts are not supposed to engage themselves in dirty business practices.”

While she remained the invisible ghost of Baszta, by default I had become a dirty post-communist businessman. Almost no one had a clue about my prior life and work as an artist that led my strange destiny to Poland. Consistently I was asked why I chose to live there or start such a business, which not only took me away from my art but also failed to change my fate with respect to establishing a stable relationship, as I had no life of my own any longer. By default I had become a living, breathing Polish Limited Liability company.

The awful irony of this is that, like many people who grew up in the communist era – when any and every private business transaction was an illegal act – my Landlord continued with such underhanded practices after engaging in operating a private business had become legal. In fact, this was quite normal. To the contrary, I had adopted an idealistic notion learned back home, as an artist-turned-businessman, to perceive doing business with others as a win-win proposition. This was a naive notion that few Poles could begin to grasp.

It became profoundly frustrating as I waited in vain for the right moment to take advantage of leasing Baszta to make my personal statement. Sublimating my creative instincts, I perceived this to be my greatest artistic endeavor: to assume a unique civic, cultural and social purpose. When all was said and done, one of my unrealized art exhibition fantasies was to present an installation of the copious amounts of bureaucratic and legal documents I had collected. This may be the digital age, but I became utterly convinced that the greatest by-product of Polish business and life in general was paper.


CIT – Corporate income tax
ZUS – Social insurance institution

WYROK W IMIENIU RZECZYPOSPOLITEJ POLSKIEJ – Judgment on behalf of the Polish Republic

DECYZJA – Decision
FAKTURA VAT – Value added tax (on domestic consumption of goods and services) invoice invoice

Click here for Chapter Fourteen: The Great Purge