I am baffled by the hysterical pro-Gates faction. I'm glad The Gates happened and I'm glad I saw it, but the gates themselves aren't very exciting. For the most part, the saffron folds look better in photographs than in person. Photographs capture the translucency of the cloth and the undulations of the sheets in the wind. The material looks smooth and sensuous in the pictures, but in person you see that it's a (technologically nifty) cross between burlap and tarpaulin. The conspicuous hems irritated me for no good reason. The material certainly makes interesting snapping and swishing sounds in the wind.
The gates look very graceful when you're walking through them, or when you're admiring them from a distance. But in some areas they look really awkward at an intermediate distance.
I will say that The Gates permanently enhanced my appreciation of Central Park. Central Park is huge and complicated with lots of little subdivisions for specific activities and facilities like the zoo, the ice rink, the baseball diamonds, etc. It's easy to fixate on whatever area you happen to be in. The brightly colored Gates encourage you to take in large swathes of the park at a glance. Under normal circustances, it's easy to forget how meticulously well-designed the park is. With The Gates up, you realize how carefully Olmstead and Vaux thought out the placement of the paths, streams, and vegetation. Every vantage point seems to be designed to be admired from everywhere else. The gates are like bright orange pylons highlighting how elegantly the paths curve around ponds and over hills.
I'm looking forward to going back to admire Central Park without The Gates. I hope that was the point.