I'd been hearing about this place for a while, but just went for the first time on Friday to see Richard Shindell. I'll be looking for excuses to come back.
The museum is on 17th Street off 7th Ave., so it's very easily accessible by several subway lines. It shows Himalayan art, mostly in rotating exhibits, on 6 floors, but is by no means huge. The art, however, is outstanding. The lobby floor, which is not an exhibition floor, has a very nice museum shop and a bar/cafe serving light food. Downstairs (theater level) is an exhibition floor and also houses the concert venue. The latter is a very small, rather long and narrow space (like a shoebox) seating I would guess about 200 (maybe less) on a flat floor in movable chairs, with a raised stage. The room is wood-lined and has unbelievably good acoustics. Sightlines and audibility from at least the middle of the crowd (where I was) were both great.
Programs at the museum include a range of lunchtime panel discussions, book clubs, workshops, kids' activities, and such throughout the week, but Friday nights ("K2 Friday Nights") are special. The galleries are open from 6-10 PM without the usual $10 charge. There is live music, either jazz or singer-songwriters. The cafe becomes the "K2 Lounge" featuring Asian tapas (a curious hybrid I haven't yet sampled). And there's a classic movie ("Movies and Martinis") later on in the theater. (They reconfigure the theater with round tables after the concert, and there's bar service with the movie.) This could make for a very reasonable and excellent Friday evening, with the free gallery admission and the free movie with $7 bar minimum. Concert tickets are fairly typical for NYC singer-songwriter shows, $25-$45. Jazz is less. Free gallery admission *before* 6 PM comes with a concert ticket, too.
The singer-songwriter series is called Naked Soul, denoting the lack of any amplification. (I'm guessing they don't amplify the jazz either; that would be even less necessary.) The excellent acoustics and lack of a PA system to get in the way really let you get into the subtleties of the music. They get very high-caliber acts, including Joan Osborne and Jill Sobule among those in the near future. Obviously, hearing Vienna here would be amazing, providing that they can put a piano on the stage. They have a classical chamber series (Sundays I think), so one would hope that they could. A unique feature is that the performers are encouraged to tour the galleries before the show and choose art to be projected behind them while they perform. Shindell did this very well, and I could only imagine how Vienna would take advantage of it.
Not knowing all this, we only planned our visit for the show, but next time I'll make an evening of it. I would rate this as a very good place to go on a Friday evening if you are visiting NYC from out of town. There's either Naked Soul or jazz, and a movie, essentially every Friday night; great art; probably interesting food; and it's not the same old place all the other tourists are going. Considering it's a peak tourist time right now, it was not overcrowded. One note, though: as of last night they were having a hiatus in their liquor license for some reason, so Movies & Martinis would have been Movies & Mocktinis. So if you think having a glass of wine with your Asian tapas might add to the evening, I would check this out before going. See the web page about the cafe.
Cute café? Bad bar? ... Cute barista!
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