Zero Bond is the New York art world’s favorite new private club. That Doesn’t Make It Cool – artnet News | Candle Made Easy

When I first started covering Artnet News’ gossip column, Wet Paint, about a year ago, I took it upon myself to try and attend every Art World party I could. I had a few methods of finding my way in. I usually emailed the right PR (fairly easy), had someone add me as a plus one (a little harder), or confidently walked in uninvited until someone noticed (fairly hard). I’ll never forget the parties I was totally turned away from; one of them was with Zero Bond.

At the very end of Bond Street (the actual address is 0 Bond Street), the members-only club is nestled between an Equinox and the building that houses the Keith Haring Foundation. What’s happening inside is almost the perfect combination of those two things. On two floors, Zero Bond includes meeting rooms, one Japanese omakase Restaurant, a lending library with art books, a coffee shop, additional meeting rooms and a private dining room called the Baccarat Room. Inspired by the members-only clubs of London, it opened in 2020 and has since built a reputation as a celebrity magnet. Its members pay annual membership fees ranging from $2,500 to $4,500 (plus some hefty initiation fees).

Becoming a member is not easy. “While we do not discriminate on the basis of race, socioeconomic status or occupation, we are very mindful of character,” the website reads. “We only accept members who demonstrate a high level of integrity and demonstrate the ability to contribute to our zero bond community.” Many of these members are active in the visual arts world, which is indicative of their socioeconomic status.

The inside of Zero Bond. Photo by Natalie Black.

“It’s like a local dive bar which I know sounds weird, tribal and animalistic,” said Zero Bond art collector and curator Sophia Cohen, Steve’s daughter, with a laugh. “A lot of great events were thrown there. I threw a Richard Prince themed birthday party on the fourth floor which was really fun.”

I didn’t mention that I already knew it was a really fun party; I saw it from the street. Last September, a vendor at the Armory Fair tipped me off that Cohen would be hosting the event. That night I put on a dress and headed to SoHo to try my third and most difficult method of party entry. But no dice, I didn’t get in. So I spent the next 20 Minutes lurking on the other side of the path, watching Max Levai, Bill Powers, Lily Mortimer and other glitterati as they paced in and out of the monolithic building in nurse and cowboy costumes, before deciding that any further attempt entering it would be in vain.

Fast forward a year and I’m finally there. It was a Monday afternoon and the energy on the fourth floor of the club was calm, like a coworking space. Immediately after exiting the elevator, my gaze fell directly on the Banksy flower thrower on the opposite wall of the club, divided into three mismatched frames. To my left was a truly hideous sculpture of an elephant in a suit looming over me like a bouncer. (I don’t know who the artist is; Zero Bond’s press agent still hasn’t gotten back to me with a reply.)

An elephant sculpture of uncertain origin at Zero Bond.

To be fair, no party venue is going to be the most exciting on a Monday afternoon in July, but the general feel of the venue was that of a high-end hotel lobby, and I couldn’t imagine myself ever feeling casual enough in it, to really relax. Much of the curation felt a little silly: a Claes Oldenburg picture of a coffee cup and croissant hung uninspired next to the cafe, and some Warhol prints of fish were, you guessed it, in the sushi restaurant. I was starting to think that maybe the Zero Bond I had designed in my head was way cooler than the real deal.

However, some unofficial research with people who have spent some serious time in all of them confirmed this. A source told me that a private dinner at the Baccarat Room with some very wealthy members came with a cash-only bar. Another told me that they spent all night at a Google executive’s birthday party waiting for Diplo to come, but he never came.

“I’d rather get drunk on the street,” added this person.

That doesn’t stop the VIP hordes (Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson; gallery owner Eli Klein; ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt) from doing so Descend to Bond Street. Most of that clientele is there for one man: its owner, famed club owner and restaurateur Scott Sartiano.

The inside of Zero Bond. Photo by Natalie Black.

“Art is such an integral part of the downtown scene,” Sartiano told me while we were seated on a Marimekko couch in the main lobby of the club. “So I always knew that had to be a part of Zero Bond.”

Sartiano, whose other Clubs include Midtown hotspots 1 Oak and Up & Down, is mild-mannered and soft-spoken, and while we were chatting, almost everyone who passed gave him a collegial “hello”. The waiters immediately put out two glasses of water when we sat down, which neither of us touched.

At 47 he is Tabloid mainstay known as Playboy who has dated starlets such as Anne Hathaway, Ashley Olsen and Ashlee Simpson. So there were some surprises at his buddy’s in May Eric Adams appointed him as mayoral commissioner to the board of directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the country’s leading cultural institution. “Perhaps,” one journalist wrote at the time, “Adams is looking for a fresh perspective on high art society from a nightlife luminary. Or maybe he mixes business with pleasure.” I think it’s probably the latter; I have already reported on Adams’s Affinity for the high-flying nightlife that the art world has to offer.

I go to their meetings about once a month,” Sartiano said of his job at the Met, primarily as a stand-in for Hizzoners. “It’s a big group, so they don’t necessarily ask me a lot of questions.” In fact, from my conversations with Sartiano, who told me that he’s “getting his feet wet” in the art world right now, I have reason to believe he’s as much a newcomer to the art scene as Adams.

“I don’t remember who did it,” he said, pointing to a sculptural lamp in the club’s restaurant. “But I know it was very expensive.”

There are much better known pieces scattered throughout the club: works by Andy Warhol (one of which was sourced with the help of former Warhol muse and art collector Jane Holzer), Petra Cortright, Lucien Smith, Francesco Clemente and Robert Mapplethorpe. I also stopped at a photo by notorious art dealer Stefan Simchowitz, which showed a woman who appeared to be in mourning. It’s titled Red lipstick, black veil.

Red lipstick, black veil by Stefan Simchowitz hangs proudly in a Zero Bond bar. Photo by Annie Armstrong.

Some of these works are on loan from members, but most are part of Zero Bond’s private collection, for which Sartiano has partnered with Creative Arts Partners, who work for companies such as Edition-Hotels, Facebook and Zero Bond’s alleged competitor, Soho House, works. After sourcing several hundred pieces of art, he hired Cohen to curate the walls.

“It was weird for me because I’m not really used to putting art in a member’s club,” Cohen told me over the phone. “It was an interesting project because I tend to take a bit more risk with my curation. I never thought I would work in a color scheme. But it was actually a fun way for me to challenge myself.”

The challenge continues; According to Sartiano, members keep buying the works right off the walls.

“We’ve become a little bit of a gallery in this weird way,” he said, saying that the artwork behind the check-in counter just got swapped out because a few different members bid on it.

The inside of Zero Bond. Photo by Natalie Black.

You might be wondering if Sartiano shares the same business model as real estate tycoon Aby Rosen, known for putting sellable artwork in places like his Gramercy Park Hotel. Sartiano isn’t quite there yet, but his eyes lit up a little when I said it had been before.

In my opinion, the arts landscape in New York City changed in 2019 when the Met announced it would no longer be free to anyone coming in off the street. The ubiquitous exclusivity of art spaces has finally reached the last bastion of democratic art experience, and we’re all worse off. Neither Adams nor Sartiano had anything to do with the museum at the time, but their current involvement feels like confirmation of my suspicion: art is no longer for the people, but for the wealthy few. The final kick in the side is that after finally seeing the insides of Zero Bond, it doesn’t strike me as ambitious anymore. By the time my tour of the establishment was complete I hadn’t even noticed that Sartiano had led me to the front door and once again I stood outside and looked inside. This time, however, the excitement was gone.

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