As a resident of NYC, I feel the need to be like everyone else in the city and share my thoughts on Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "The Gates." This public art exhibition consisted of 7.503, 16-foot tall "gates" lining 23 miles of Central Park and was on display for 16 days this February. The inception of this public spectacle was dreamed up 25 years ago and the eccentric, artist couple had been fighting NYC bureaucratic red tape to realize it ever since. The Christos spent approx. $21 million of their own money (no sponsorhips or donations). That dedication and commitment to a vision alone had me awestruck.
Then there's the actual work itself! Everyone seems to have their opinion on The Gates. Some feel like it was a letdown compared to the Christos' past works (e.g. Wrapped Reichstag, Surrounded Islands, the Umbrellas, or Pont Neuf Wrapped). Some think it looks more like a construction site than an aesthetic...it's evident that the project makes for an easy target of satire and criticism. Others simply don't see the point at all.
On the two occassions I took a walk through the Gates, I honestly felt all of the above. I think my instinct as a pretentious, culture-poseur type was to intellectualize the experience and think "What, that's it?" But the pure visceral experience was one of true amazement by the project's scale and sheer audacity. Let me whip out the cliche book and say that I really felt like a kid again, strolling around in a park with really large objects. Walking through the Gates was simply (and there has to be a better way to put it, but whatever), "really cool." Moreover, there was a vitality to the Park that probably isn't very common in the forgotten, dreary month of February.
Approximately 4 million people visited The Gates, with about 1.5 million coming from out of town. A capitalistic, cynical type may argue that the revenue generated from the tourism drawn from the Gates (estimated at $254 million) is the only value of this ostentacious work. Whether people liked it or not, I think that the Gates were indeed a true work of art, eliciting strong reactions and inciting discussion among friends and strangers. If only people had the same ability to react and interact in passionate, yet respectful ways regarding other topics like religion and politics!
p.s. Enjoy the pictures!