The Glittering and Gritty History of 24 Bond
If you happen to look up while strolling down Bond or Lafayette Streets, you might come upon a curious sight – dozens of small, golden statues dancing along the wrought iron and brick of a traditional NoHo facade. Celebratory and airy, they’re a delightful addition to the heavy, industrial look of the rest of the area. Who do we have to thank for this artistic juxtaposition? Artist and 24 Bond resident Bruce Williams.
Williams and his wife have lived in the building for over twenty years, and he first began adorning his building’s facade in 1998. At the time, the NoHo neighborhood was much more off the beaten path than now, a small enclave for artists working in a variety of mediums. Since then, the neighborhood has gained quite a bit more distinction, glamour, and recognition. In 2008, 24 Bond Street was included in the NoHo Historic District Extension, officially recognizing the architectural significance of this 19th-century building. To celebrate, Williams added additional golden sculptures climbing up the side of his now-landmarked building. He did this, as he had always done, without asking for approval, but the new landmark status of his building required that he confer with the LPC. Despite a small ado requiring an official hearing on the outdoor art, the spritely statues were permitted to stay.
But those sculptures aren’t the only piece of artistic legacy at 24 Bond. Robert Mapplethorpe occupied a studio on the fifth floor of 24 Bond from the 1970s until his death in 1989. In this cavernous space, Mapplethorpe would invite his subjects to “do drugs, have sex, and then be photographed.” 24 Bond was infamous – Edward Mapplethorpe, Robert’s brother, said it was “so sexually charged that you needed to be pretty certain of who you were to be around it on a day-to-day basis.” Mapplethorpe photographed legions of downtown superstars in his NoHo loft, including frequent collaborator Patti Smith. It was here that they filmed 1978’s “Still Moving” which appeared at the Stephen Miller Gallery and was Smith and Mapplethorpe’s only joint exhibition.
The same year that Mapplethorpe died, the Gene Frankel Theatre moved into the ground floor of the Bond Street building. Already a well-regarded theater with serious Village bonafides, once at 24 Bond the theater nurtured the careers of burgeoning actors and exhibited bold and progressive works. Although Frankel himself died in 2005, the theater still operates out of the ground floor space, advancing its mission to nurture living playwrights and artists and to “revive NoHo as a cauldron of LGBTQI art and ideas by producing new works.”
Considering the building’s long legacy as an arts space, those gold dancers on the facade seem to fit right in. They’re just another mark of the innovative, artistic spirit that seems to be coursing through the walls at 24 Bond. May it nurture and delight for many years to come.