IN the movies, being in a museum after dark is not such a great idea: youre likely to be killed by an albino monk, say, or attacked by miniature cowboys.
In reality, museums after dark are often better than during daylight hours. And you dont even need Tom Cruises help to disable the alarm system: over the last decade, just about all of New Yorks major museums and a few of its minor ones have jumped on the nocturnal bandwagon, hoping to hook a younger generation on museumgoing. But theyve hooked the older crowd as well, with some offering live music or D.J.s, performances and lectures, discount prices and, not surprisingly, booze.
A majority of these evening activities are on Friday nights, seemingly perfect for just-arrived out-of-town weekenders. The crowds they attract appear much more New Yorker than tourist. The average attendee comes with high heels and a hip handbag, not sensible shoes and a Lonely Planet guide.
Some museums offer little more than free entry, and that appears to be enough: lines form early for Target Free Friday Nights at the Museum of Modern Art, for example. But others spice things up.
Art After Dark, the first Friday of most months at the Guggenheim, is probably the most popular. But it comes with a price tag: $25. From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. the ground floor is taken over by a friendly, fashionable mob that makes it difficult to get to the beer and wine station in the center. Music is provided by the kind of well-known D.J.s that people who keep track of well-known D.J.s have heard of.
But of course the Guggenheim is about more than elbowing to the music as you squeeze by strangers in search of a Brooklyn Lager. At some point during the evening you want to head up through the galleries, leaving your drink behind (near airport-level security ensures that no one has the chance to get any merlot on the Mir).
Beware, though: the lines that form outside the museum can be a pre-emptive buzz kill, so you need to get there early say, by 8:30 or you risk a long wait in line. That goes double for the next event, on March 7, where museum capacity will be lower because of the set-up of the Cai Guo-Qiang exhibition. (Darn automobiles hanging from the ceiling!)
The Whitney offers a similarly youthful vibe, with a more frequent but irregular schedule of Friday night events, which include live music in the Lower Gallery. Featured acts will include So Percussion and Kneebody on Feb. 22 and Tristan Perich on Feb. 29; thats it until April.
Attracting a wider crowd are First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum, which are totally family friendly but not single-person-unfriendly. A full slate of activities includes everything from tours to workshops to films to a dance floor (to alcohol, but you already knew that). On March 1, for example, the theme is on women (for Womens History month) and Carnival (a month late, but whatever) in Latin America. The music begins at 6 p.m. with the New York-based Colombian musician Luca Pulido performing, and goes straight through to D.J. Sean Marquand, known for his long-running Sunday night Brazilian shows at the Brooklyn bar Black Betty, who spins from 9 to 11 p.m.
Friday evenings at the three-and-a-half-year-old Rubin Museum in Chelsea are much less known. The museum focuses on Himalayan art at most times, but there is Happy Hour on Fridays starting at 6 p.m. in the K2 Lounge. There are drinks and D.J.s, film screenings (this Friday its the Japanese cult favorite Ichi the Killer), concerts and access to some museum galleries.
Finally, the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery wins the prize both for frequency it is open until 10 p.m. on Thursdays (free after 7) and Fridays and creativity. To wit: the music series called Get Weird: Experimental and Freaky Jams on the third Thursday of the month. (There are also other events, many equally quirky.)
But again, sometimes its just about the museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art feels different at night (its open until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), and not just because you dont have to step over as many people on the stairs going in. The live classical music from overhead in the Balcony Caf is a nice touch, but you should also wander back to the Temple of Dendur, which takes on a different feel at night, as the great wall of windows that usually lets in the Central Park sunlight becomes a wall of black, casting an eerie glow over the Egyptian sandstone. No worries, though: its still light enough that you wont worry about albino monks lurking in the shadows.
MERLOT BY THE MIR
Asia Society and Museum, 725 Park Avenue, (212) 288-6400; asiasociety.org. First Fridays: Asia Circle Cocktail Evening, 6 to 9 p.m. in the Leo Bar, free.
I've been to few parties at the MET, but not these type of open admission parties. These sound like they are more fun than the closed ones. It's probably a great place for singles to meet, a little better than a bar. You can test how cultured he really is right there at the museum. LOL