We always love a party, who doesn’t? But what is more exciting than a party in a fantastic museum filled with great art!?
In my opinion there's nothing comparable. It is there that you find the epitome of art enjoyment. A moment in which you can relax, let lose without distraction from the outer world and are able to concentrate on the feelings evoked from the art. Most of the masterpieces during all the ages were made for the viewer’s enjoyment it is one if not the main purposes of art. So, what is more enjoyable than a mix of delicious cocktails, food, beautiful, well-dressed people and of course art.
All the museum parties I've been to in a way are similar. Usually it is a restricted event which means that you must buy tickets in advance or get an invitation, choose the appropriate outfit, and make sure that you don't have any other plans for the evening. Parties usually reflect the spirit of the museum and its philosophy. We've partied through the landmark New York museums to give you an overview of the coolest, best-dressed and dance worthy venues where art enhances your party vibes.
At the MET party, you should expect to see people who love history, in the Whitney there are a lot of fashionistas and MoMA welcomes the younger and rather contemporary generation. The Guggenheim is a party pioneer and hosts parties so often that it makes the event pretty good for everyone, no additional conditions apply except for loving art and being ready to enjoy it on selected Fridays.
My first museum party in NY was the Apollo Circle Benefit — an event for young collectors at the MET which turned out to be more of a dance party with young crowd, drinks flow and a DJ who was spinning old school music. The music was something between trendy and classic hits which was very “MET style”. I attended the party with a friend whose parents have been MET members for a very long time, they were basically born into the MET life. Lots of people at the event were patrons for generations and some of them attend this party every year. I totally understand why, it really is a good one.
A few months later I went to another MET party slightly more formal and less of a young collectors type of crowd. Although still interesting it was different than the lively dance party I had experienced before. The director of the MET gave his talk and other staff members spoke on stage. The surprising thing about the MET parties is that you basically see no art there. To get to the event hall, you pass through some galleries but noone really stops there to appreciate the art. Of course the hall makes up for it with Egyptian pharaohs sculptures made of limestone greeting you at the main entrance. The dancefloor itself is located right in front of the Temple of Dendur built around 15 B.C., this enormous historical hall sets a very special atmosphere where you can feel, breathe and see the importance of the cultural heritage.
Excited and inspired by the MET party I started looking for other similar events. Being a new museum party junkie and all I hapilly found an event at the Whitney Museum which also happens to be one of my favorite museums in NY. Win – win! From the very beginning the party was something else. At the entrance we were greeted by a huge line of very fashionably dressed people so we had to wait around fifteen minutes to get in. Some people attended a dinner before the party however to be part of that you must receive a personal invitation. The party itself had a high presence of famous models and the who’s who of the fashion industry. I even got a chance to meet some famous artists there. The average age of the Whitney party animals was mid-thirties. The most amazing and memorable part of the party was that you could actually walk around the museum and enjoy contemporary American art. Whitney’s collection and exhibitions are always carefully curated, you really need a lot of time to see the entire display as each piece is worth your undivided attention.
Enjoying art is the most important part of Guggenheim's After Dark parties. These parties are way more straightforward with no fancy dress code. In the infamous circle hall of the museum they set up bar stands where you can buy drinks (because who enjoys a dry museum party?), the choice of drinks however is very limited. To get a drink you actually need to go to the counter first and buy tickets so needless to say it’s not the most convenient system out there. Each ticket costs a few dollars. For example, to get a beer you need one ticket but to get a cocktail you'll need two. The prices make up for the small detour. No museums allow visitors to take drinks in the galleries, leave your drinks downstairs while you make your way up the curvy Guggenheim stairway. The hall is very lit up allowing you to focus on the art displayed, don’t expect any disco lights here. Your primary purpose of being here is art.
The Armory Party at the MoMA was something unlike anything I’ve seen before. They had a music gig! I'm not sure what band was playing that evening and considering how many times I was asked if I knew who they were they probably weren’t the most well known band out there. But, they were certainly entertaining. The MoMA turned into a night club that night. They had several bars with an excellent choice of drinks which was probably a reason why the party was so busy the entire evening. However the atmosphere encouraged more communication between people and I got a chance to go upstairs to see some exhibitions. The museum's halls on the upper floors were mostly empty, it is there where you could find calm and have a quiet moment.
There are many desirable museum parties in the city including garden parties at the Frick Collection which are always a lot of fun. Imagine a bunch of well-dressed people gracefully enjoying the splendid museum outdoors. To attend these parties you must buy a fellow membership though which starts from $1,200 or hope to get invited. Some fashion brands such as Carolina Herrera regularly host their shows at the Frick but that turns a museum party into a different but always a very glamourous story.
New York is always full of events and it is hard to decide which is the best party to attend without the constant FOMO! The best way to figure out where to go is still a word of mouth, announcements on museum social media and web sites keep you in the loop as well. If you are a museum party beginner we recommend attending a Guggenheim party first — it is the most frequent and reasonably priced one. Simply a perfect opportunity to get your foot into the scene. If you are looking for something a little bit more sophisticated head to the MET or the Whitney. And if you are in the mood for a proper wild party and looking for an alternative to your usual night club — your best option will be MoMA or even the hip MoMA PS1. We'll save more reviews for that and other museum parties around the world until the next time. In the meantime, party hard, museum world.