Last year, when I heard about Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s project entitled “The Gates”, I scoffed at it. OK, so I didn’t just scoff. I had some rather colorful things to say about their “art” that I won’t share here. “Fantastique!” I thought in a more charitable moment. “Central Park will resemble a gigantic load of orange bed sheets hung up to dry!”
About a week ago, after poring over quite a load of information (this is worth the read) about the project, I started to rethink my original opinion. “Who knows?” I whispered to myself. “It might actually be kinda groovy.” I was particularly enchanted by the notion that the installment, which was 26 years in the making, would last only 16 days.
I wanted to see it before its official “birth” today, so yesterday I walked to Central Park West to check it out. Here is just a sampling of the photos I took:
left and center, Central Park West at 103rd Street, near The Pool
right, Central Park West at 106th Street
As soon as I saw the first bit of orange (shown in the first photo), I thought, “Construction site,” quickly followed by, “Oh god. Oh no. I so want to love this in reality after having hated it in the abstract.” So I pressed on.
I crossed Central Park West and stood at the base of one of the gates. I don’t know what the hell happened, but being right there, under one of the gates, triggered something in me that made me say, “Awesome … awesome … awesome … in the truest sense of the word.” I tore up the stone steps leading into the park. I was surrounded by The Gates. A tiny tiny portion of the 23 miles winding through the park was here, right in front of me, above me, behind me, all around me. And it was all just waiting there, stoically, patiently, in anticipation of the next day’s unfurling of the fabric “cocoons” (see the last photo).
Today the miles of fabric were unfurled, but I only saw it while on a crosstown bus and, later, in a taxi. Tomorrow I plan to revisit the parts of the park that I visited yesterday, and every day for the rest of The Gates’s short life, I’ll walk through as many of its gates as I can. I am tempted to make all sorts of sentimental remarks about how its life is fleeting and so, ultimately, are all of ours, but I will refrain, and simply say this: If you have any chance to come to New York before February 28, grab it.
Photos don’t do it justice. Words don’t do it justice. When I first heard about this project, I derided it as a huge stupid joke with no punchline, but after yesterday, I found it gloriously funny and beautiful and spectacular. It’s not a joke at all. It’s more like one of those stories of which people say “you had to be there” to get.