Monday, February 28, 2005

Seeing 'The Gates'

This past Friday I went to Central Park to see ‘The Gates,’ the latest large public art installation by Christ and Jeanne-Claude.

Yes, the color was ugly (I think ‘saffron’ is French for ‘We fucked up and ordered orange drapes’). Yes, it was over-hyped; Manhattan was crowded with the pretentious sporting orange scarves and the telltale Metropolitan Museum of Art pins (take those off when you leave the museum, otherwise they mark you as clueless tourists and easy prey).

But it was fun, interesting, and free of charge. Central Park was abuzz with people enjoying themselves and taking lots of photos. My brother and his girlfriend flew in from San Francisco so they could see the exhibit. Volunteers handed out free pieces of orange fabric and answered people’s questions. It snowed during the week and I took some nice pictures of the Sheep Meadow with the Central Park South skyline highlighted by an orange line of The Gates.

Just the fact that people argue and debate about The Gates make them a worthwhile experience. When was the last time that people argued and debated over a piece of art? The debate over what constitutes art and what makes good art is worth having, don’t shy away from a good debate.

Not a dime of taxpayer’s money went to this. Also, all proceeds from selling the silly Gates merchandise sold goes to preservation groups
Nurture New York’s Nature and The Central Park Conservancy. Christo and his wife make their money from people who shell out as much as $500,000 for one of his original drawings. So in a way Christo and Jeanne-Claude in a way are having the last laugh at the art world: real people get to experience the art for free, the city gets an economic boost, and the wealthy elite who give art a bad name are stuck with the bill.

I love the fact that such a grand and unusual vision could come to life. It was a triumph to all weird dreamers everywhere: no idea is too unusual to voice, no dream to strange to come true. Christo and Jeanne-Claude are people with big ideas and big dreams and have been working on The Gates since I was in the second grade. They are leaving New York a richer place.

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