Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"The Gates" Swung Open...

Florence has Ghiberti's "The Gates of Paradise," Paris has Rodin's "The Gates of Hell" (we had them for a few months at the Metropolitan Museum of Art back in 1983), and now for a matter of days New York City has Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "The Gates."

According to Christo and Jeanne-Claude's press release: "The 7,500 gates, (are) 16 feet (4,87 meters) tall varying in width from 5 feet 6 inches to 18 feet (1,68 to 5,48 meters) according to the 25 different widths of walkways, on 23 miles (37 kilometers) of walkways in Central Park. Free hanging saffron colored fabric panels, suspended from the horizontal top part of the gates, come down to approximately 7 feet (2,13 meters) above the ground. The gates are spaced at 12 foot (3,65 meter) intervals, except where low branches extend above the walkways. The gates and the fabric panels can be seen from far away through the leafless branches of the trees. The work of art will remain for 16 days, then the gates will be removed and the materials will be recycled."

"The gates swung open and a Fig Newton entered." I don't know exactly what that means, but it is one of the funniest lines from the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers. These gates don't exactly swing; they just sort of stand there, a
nd the crowds walk under them, looking up at the fabric panels billowing in the wind (if there's any), hoping that the sun breaks through the clouds so that the digital pictures will come out nicer. If "The Gates" were part of a comedy act, then collectively they would be the straight-man -- the biggest collection of straight-men in the world!

I've gone to see "The Gates" twice. On my first visit this past Sunday, the reaction of the people around me grabbed my attention. People go out of their way to say the darndest things around modern art, I'm convinced of it. The comments went from the ridiculous: "They look like shower curtains," to the not so ridiculous: "All the gates are different." While I was in the park, admiring the transformed landscape, I thought that the gates would look especially beautiful if a nice snowstorm blanketed Central Park. On Sunday night, I got my wish. Five inches of snow fell overnight, and on Monday morning I returned to the park. The snow had totally transformed the landscape, and the saffron colored gates stood like sentinels against the freezing cold and the new winter landscape.

For sixteen days, Central Park has been one huge Christo and Jeanne-Claude installation. A few days from now, "The Gates" will be history. They will be dismantled, according to the wishes of the artists, and Central Park will once again be its former self. I will personally miss them. These rigid structures, meaningless and meaningful at the same time, added a colorful dimension to the park, and their memory will linger for years in my mind, and in the minds of all who experienced them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I first saw this on the news, my reaction was "What a collossal waste of money. How much taxpayers money did it cost to put this up?"

People complain about how the government is cutting back services and people's lives are getting worse because of it. Well, now we know why...we need bright orange pieces of cloth hanging in Central Park.