Wooing a New Generation of Museum Patrons

Several hundred millennials mingled under the soaring atrium of the Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue one recent frigid February night. Weaving around them were black-clad servers bearing silver trays piled high with doughnuts, while a pixieish D.J. spun Daft Punk remixes.

The occasion was the museum’s annual Young Collectors Party, and the increasingly tipsy crowd thronged in a space usually filled with visitors eager to see the 73-year-old institution’s priceless artworks. But on this night, the galleries displaying an exhibition of Italian Futurism were mostly cordoned off. Instead, youthful, glamorous and moneyed New Yorkers were the main attraction.

Many museums, including the Guggenheim, view events like this as central to their public programming. They get a new generation through the front door and keep potentially staid institutions relevant with a cultural landscape in flux.

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