As New York heads into summer, the competition for philanthropic dollars heats up. Arts groups (not to mention botanical gardens) are increasingly trying to outdo each other with ever-more-lavish and leafy events, several of them held back-to-back in coming weeks.
Here, a guide to these tony garden parties – the only places in New York where seersucker isn’t tainted by irony.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Botanic Garden’s summer gala is not just one garden party, but three. Commencing with cocktails in the herb garden at 5:30, it will migrate to the rose garden (more cocktails) and the cherry esplanade (food), making the centennial celebration a kind of pub crawl for exceptionally well-dressed adults. Mayor Bloomberg will be in attendance, performing selected monologues from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Well, not quite, but he will offer welcoming remarks. Tickets start at $200. Garden-lovers who’d prefer to skip the gala can plan a visit based on the Web site, http://www.bbg.org, which posts which flowers are in bloom.
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Members’ Garden Party
Cooper-Hewitt has always vied with the Frick (see below) for the title of Museum Mile’s most adorable back garden, and this summer they will both flex their muscles with outdoor parties a month apart. The Cooper-Hewitt’s is members only and offers access to its sweeping Triennial exhibition-”Why Design Now?”-and equally importantly, to the always-spectacular gift shop. Wine-addled guests are politely requested to refrain from sliding down the wood banister of the stately main staircase. Individual membership costs $75.
The Frick Collection
Started in 2008, the Frick’s annual garden party is (according to the institution’s own press release) “one of the most memorable social events of the year.” Whether that’s true or not, the party does offer access to the otherwise rarely open elevated garden, which flanks the historic mansion on its Fifth Avenue side. All proceeds of this event go to the museum foundation, and guests are invited to inspect a new exhibition about the museum itself. Self-centered? Perhaps. But if your house were that nice, you’d be the same way. Tickets start at $150.
The High Line
Cocktails on the High Line
June 21, 6 PM
Some partiers might argue that if summer in New York has a fault, it is the NYPD’s negative stance on drinking in public parks. If you are among them, the Friends of the High Line have come to your rescue. Attendees at this benefit can toast the sunset outdoors in the so-called Chelsea Grasslands, and then see a preview screening of A Bell for Every Minute, a film by avant-garde director Stephen Vitiello. Dinner follows at equally avant-garde auction house Phillips de Pury & Company. Tickets start at $1,000.
The Morgan Library & Museum
Not a party, and not a garden, either, but the Morgan Library this week opens the show “Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design.” It’s about the “scenic vistas, winding paths, bucolic meadows, and rustic retreats” of the public parks and private estates of the late 1700s and early 1800s. There will be artwork, books and even contemporary photographs of gardens. On June 2 at 6:30 p.m., the museum hosts a panel on contemporary landscape design that discusses the High Line, among other city projects. Tickets are $10 for members, and $15 for non-members.
The Museum of Modern Art
Party in the Garden
The Modern, post-Tim Burton, has turned cool: They’ve booked Karen O and Nick Zinner, of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as entertainment for their annual swanky Party in the Garden. Tickets start at $1,000 per person, but after-party access, and the same glorious views of the backyard Henry Moores, can be had for $100. Social climbers, take note: This benefit will be attended by Agnes Gund, Jerry Speyer, the Lauders, the Kravises and the (Leon) Blacks. It’s like an Edith Wharton novel, with cell phones.
Greater New York Opening
Several of these summer parties are pricey, but the suggested donation here is a comfortable $5. Greater New York, P.S.1′s marquee summer opening, is a survey of the best art produced locally in the past five years, and they’re celebrating with one of their trademark Sunday afternoon open-air parties. No garden, per se, but lots of room and good, sweaty fun. Dress code is T-shirts, not black tie. Performance artist Terence Koh takes the stage at 3; if that’s not your thing, come at 4 for the DJ set.
New York Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden, in the Bronx adjacent to the zoo and Fordham University, is so expansive that it’s easy to forget the city altogether. You could easily mistake the surroundings for the nature park of a medium-size town somewhere far, far away. The illusion is upped at the annual Conservatory Ball, which offers after-dinner dancing in the glass-enclosed Victorian-era conservatory. Tickets start at $1,500. Disaffected garden lovers who can’t afford the ball can commune with angst-queen poet Emily Dickinson, as the garden’s lush Poetry of Flowers exhibition, based on the writer’s work, is open through June 13.
Socrates Sculpture Park
June 5 and 6, all afternoon
If you call this Long Island City park, they answer the phone, cheerily, “Socrates!” Which seems to bode well. It happens to be one of the loveliest parks in the city, a waterfront gem with skyline views and year-round art installations. Their Makers Market is an upscale, design-heavy crafts fair. Admission is free, and shuttle buses will be leaving regularly from the Asia Society on Park Avenue and 70th Street.
Besides offering some of the finest Hudson River views in the city, Wave Hill garden does parties, too. For this year’s gala, along with the traditional cocktails and dinner, they’re opening up the Dessert Room, whose name, we hope, is not a misnomer. There, about 250 guests will enjoy live samba and bossa nova, taking in after-dinner drinks to steel themselves for the long ride home on the No. 1 train, or for the limo ride. Tickets are $500. For daytime visitors, the May highlights include flowering dogwood, Chinese wisteria, bluebells and crab apples.