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March 30, 2010

A – Z Guide: B

Dean Kaufman

Bond, James Bond

This year marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. The occasion has, predictably, marshaled a parade of projects and events: Ben MacIntyre’s Fleming biography, For Your Eyes Only (Bloomsbury); a new authorized Bond novel, Devil May Care (Doubleday), by Sebastian Faulks; several exhibitions; and the 23rd Bond film, Quantum of Solace, which hits theaters in November.

An occasion to celebrate, sure, but it’s rather horrifying to crash into such firm proof of just how old James Bond is. We are now well into his sixth decade as a secret agent. And, let us not forget, when Fleming introduced Bond in his 1953 Casino Royale, 007 was already in his thirties, so by now there most certainly would be some awkward retirement questions.

In the movies, of course, Bond never ages—frequently, he gets younger. Daniel Craig, for his part, shook off the last traces of Fleming’s killer toff, reinventing him as a sort of Iraq contractor, the perfect Bond for our imperfect time.

As for what Fleming would make of this, I’d hate to guess. He was born into a world of horse-drawn privilege, one that had never heard of genocide or weapons of mass destruction. He died in 1964 just as the film version of Goldfinger was about to make his creation an international phenomenon. But by the early fifties, when he started to write the Bond books, he had seen alarming change, and his novels are rife with preoccupations caused by unstable times: an obsession with British decline, the Cold War.

Today the world Fleming knew has vanished. China and India are great powers. Russia has fallen. Britain is, well, still there, in its way. Fleming knew nothing about information technology, gay rights, women’s rights (he really knew nothing at all about feminism), environmentalism, celebrity culture, or Egg McMuffins.

But how many authors exert such a grip? Fleming’s centenary is an opportunity to shake our heads at the staggering tumult that has filled the years since his birth—and to get excited for the release of Quantum of Solace. It’s named after Fleming’s most melancholy and virtually actionless short story, with an irresistible title.

Simon Winder wrote The Man Who Saved Britain: A Personal Journey into the Disturbing World of James Bond (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux).

Bacon Crisps

Pick your pun: sizzling, piping hot, well-done. No artist’s market has soared more in the last year and a half than Francis Bacon’s. Since fall 2006 the record price for the British artist, who died in 1992, has jumped to $52.7 million, with no fewer than six works topping $25 million—and a couple more candidates are coming up during the May sales in New York. Only adding fuel to the fire is Tate Britain’s big Bacon survey, which will run September 11 to January 4, 2009.

NOV 2006

Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe, 1968 $15 million SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK

FEB 2007

Study for Portrait II, 1956 $27 million CHRISTIE’S LONDON

MAY 2007

Study from Innocent X, 1962 $52.7 million SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK

JUNE 2007

Self-Portrait, 1978 $43 million SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK

NOV 2007

Second Version of Study for a Bullfight No. 1, 1969 $46 million SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK

FEB 2008

Study of a Nude with Figure in a Mirror, 1969 $39.7 million SOTHEBY’S LONDON

FEB 2008

Triptych, 1974–77 $51.7 million CHRISTIE’S LONDON

The Bowery’s Rebirth

The transformation of the Bowery, a once-forlorn stretch of flophouses, dive bars, and kitchen supply stores on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has reached full throttle. The clothing boutique Blue & Cream recently moved in and John Varvatos and Rogan are coming soon. Chef Daniel Boulud is opening an upscale burger joint. Following the success of the year-old Bowery Hotel, the Carlos Zapata–designed Cooper Square Hotel debuts later this year.

The area is becoming something of a destination for celebrity architects, with buildings by Thom Mayne, Herzog & de Meuron, and Bernard Tschumi. The jewel of the Bowery—imperfections aside—is SANAA’s New Museum of Contemporary Art, whose opening this fall served as a magnet for art galleries, which began popping up here several years ago but are now coming in waves. Recent arrivals include Salon 94, Luxe, Lehmann Maupin, Feature, and DCKT Contemporary, a transplant from Chelsea, where spiraling rents are forcing some galleries to look elsewhere.

“In the short time I’ve been on the Lower East Side, the number of galleries has practically doubled,” says Amy Smith-Stewart, a former curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City who opened her space last summer. “In Chelsea there’s such an oversaturation, it can feel like work. Here there’s great diversity in the neighborhood and in the galleries. People feel they can talk to the owners—it’s more intimate.”

ON AND OFF THE BOWERY

Art Galleries

NEW HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS

  • Cooper Square Hotel 25 Cooper Square (opening in July)
  • Bowery Hotel 335 Bowery; 212-505-9100; theboweryhotel.com
  • 250 Bowery The city’s first green hotel (opening late 2008)
  • Hotel on Rivington 107 Rivington St.; 212-475-2600; hotelonrivington.com
  • Gemma at the Bowery Hotel 335 Bowery; 212-505-9100
  • AvroKO’s unnamed restaurant at 310 Bowery (opening late 2008)
  • Daniel Boulud’s new brasserie at 299 Bowery (opening this summer)