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- A sevenfold New York

Happy hour, dinner, live music

text Tania Menai photos Guto Bertagnolli

Wandering through New York’s museums could be more risky than facing a lion on an African safari. It’s not easy to skirt groups of noisy school children, avoid excursion groups of scholars studying 16th-century European tapestries, escape baby carriages, or ignore Egyptian art guides whose voices can be heard over in the Impressionism gallery. For that reason, some people prefer to stroll through the galleries at night. Yes, New York’s museums have a nocturnal version. This is the favorite time for those who need a Zen atmosphere and for tourists who don’t want to stay inside during the day. This is a time when the museums take on a very special social life.

Every Friday and Saturday night, the mezzanine of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MAM) is spread with tables, where you can either dine or simply savor a good wine to the sound of live classical music. In May, the museum also opens its roof garden for locals and art lovers to enjoy a happy hour with sculpture exhibits and a view of Central Park. For a romantic Friday evening, visit the Frick Collection, which serves wine in its gorgeous inner gardens, after 6:30 p.m.. The night life at the Museum of Natural History takes place in its annex, the Rose Center for Earth and Space Planetarium. The show is called Starry Nights, and is scheduled for the first Friday of each month. Big name jazz bands play on the stage below the huge dome, with live radio broadcasts on WBGO p fJazz. At the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the special days are the first Saturday of each month (entrance is free, after 6:00 p.m.), and the First Saturdays program has an intense schedule of classical music, readings, movies, and even DJs until 11 p.m.

One of the big reasons for visiting museums at night is the price. At several museums, you “pay what you wish” (usually about US$ 7.50), after a given time. For travelers on a budget, this is a big savings from the normal US$12 per person. At the Whitney Museum of American Art, all of the galleries are open and on the first Friday of every month there is Soundcheck – a jazz band show, downstairs. At the Guggenheim Museum, the bands perform in the middle of the famous rotunda, on the museum’s ground floor. Besides the galleries, there is a café and a shop. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is in a remodeling phase. Its collection is being temporarily shown at the MoMA Queens, which is open on Friday nights, but without special events.

Night visits are also available at smaller museums. They open their galleries, cafés, and shops, but have no extra activities. The Jewish Museum opens on Thursday night for “pay what you wish”; the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum opens on Friday until 9 p.m.; and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, in SoHo, opens Thursday until 8 p.m. When they are in New York, Picasso, Monet, and Andy Warhol don’t always go to bed early.

[ copyright © 2005 by Tania Menai ]