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February 27, 2005

The Gates

Thad and I saw The Gates and we have the pictures to prove it. We may have just missed Jon Mandle from Crooked Timber.

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.


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» Barbarians At The Gates from Dohiyi Mir
Casablanca:Ilsa: Let's see ... The last time we met ...Rick: It was La Belle Aurore.Ilsa: How nice - you remembered. [Read More]

» I am so curious to hear the reactions from City Comforts Blog
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Earlier this afternoon, my friend Shabbir Kazmi, my wife Margit, and I met at Strawberry Fields to begin an arty excursion through The Gates in Central Park. The weather was beautiful. Shabby bought and ate a hot dog from a [Read More]

» Goodbye, Gates from 3quarksdaily
Christo's gates in Central Park will be taken down this weekend. Whatever one may think of them in the end, they did give us something to talk about for a while (see our earlier posts here, here, here, here, and [Read More]


We were in Central Park Saturday to see The Gates. Quite enjoyable. I'll be honest, I can remember only one other time I was in Central Park, about 15 years ago, to ice skate. Was that the point? I don't know. Art not just in place, but in time.

I was reading a VERY local columnist who had good things to say about The Gates, he reported speaking with a friend who related his own Gates story. This friend just mentioned in passing that it was the first time he had been to NYC since 9/11. Maybe art draws people out more than they think?

BTW, reading what Germans had to say about the wrapping of the Reichstag is quite interesting.

I'm converted.

I will say that The Gates permanently enhanced my appreciation of Central Park.

Me too. And that in itself was enough to put me into the semi-hysterical pro-Gates faction.


Your view of the Gates is about the same as mine. I took the walk on Wednesday, and came away thinking that the project didn't make much of an art statement, but did enhance one's understanding and appreciation for Central Park. How fortunate we are to have that magnificent civic space in the middle of NYC. Nearly everyone I met was smiling.

I thought that the decision to install the Gates in February was brilliant, whether it was the artist's choice or not. This otherwise drab month needs a splash of color and a reason to feel festive. I live 2 hours away from NYC, and still managed to run into 3 different groups of friends while in the Park.

BTW, the hems bothered me too. Something about our childhoods, perhaps?

> 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 haven't seen the Gates in person, but your description reminds me of my impression of NYC. Riding Amtrak over Hellgate Bridge from NE, flying low over the Hudson on approach to LaGuardia, or having a drink on top of the WTC (when it was there), NYC looked uniquely beautiful to me. However, taking the GG from Brooklyn to Queens, or walking along 4th ave. in Brooklyn, to see the frayed edges of the city. Were the Gates intended as a metaphor for this?

Has anyone run across a real art critic who panned The Gates? I haven't seen any (I don't count the slackjaw at the NYPost). I found this in last week's New York magazine. This guy says Gates was "pooh-poohed by the art Establishment," and then manages to get though an entire article without giving a single example. Anybody?

Keith Olbermann has many unkind things to say about Christo and Yoko -- I mean Jeanne-Claude -- but I'm still searching for a real art critic who dissed Gates.

From what I understand, one of the Christo and Jeanne-Claude's main goals in all their installations is to enhance your appareciation of what is already there. The whole thing with wrapping buildings was a way of drawing your attention to the overall shape of the building by obscuring the distracting details.

So if you like central park more, C & J-C may have accomplished their goal, even if you didn't like their work so much.

"For the most part, the saffron folds look better in photographs than in person?"
Is the reality observed by the art of photography more true than the reality itself?

"the frayed edges of the city. Were the Gates intended as a metaphor for this?"

Is it possible that once the work is done, the artist know longer owns it?

Metaphor is where you find it, Chauncy. Sensitive types should avoid the looking at the Trump Tower. If you look too long at it, it will begin to look back.

Blah, blah, blah. Note to Heretik Self: Must really get to the doctor re: dosage on scrip.

Hilton Kramer wins the prize for the most>vehemently incoherent denunciation of The Gates.

I am an artist in NYC and was personally very disappointed with the gates. Additionally, all the artists I know were similiarly offended by the horrible aethetics of the gates themselves. In sharp contrast, those friends who have no artistic interests were very pleased with the gates, they enjoyed the carnival atmosphere and happy mood the gates seem to inspire in the thousands of people who would otherwise not be in the park.

Also, kudos to MIchael Bloomberg who encouraged a dramatic work of art and brought people and commerce to NYC. Compare his relationship to the arts community to Rudy Guilianni who was forever dragging artists into court.

I'm disappointed I'm not going to get to see The Gates in person. I'll be in NYC *next* week. Sigh.

I think showing the gates in February, when the Park is defoliated, is what gave them the impact they had. Had it been spring or summer, tree cover would have prevented you from seeing them. Had it been autumn, the saffron would have blended in with the turning leaves. In the dead of winter, the gates do, as Lindsay said, give you a new appreciation for how complex and meticulous the design of the park is. After a stroll through the gates, I turned to my wife and said that Central Park is really the greatest urban park in the world. She's lived in Paris, London, Stockholm, and probably a few places she's not proud of, and she agreed with me wholeheartedly.

Lindsay, thank you for the Hilton Kramer link. You're right -- he doesn't say much, but he sure says it loud. I suppose he qualifies as an art critic -- and that's the first I've seen that slammed The Gates. But, as you say, incoherent.

robert, the reaction of you and your friends is contrary to everything I've read and heard about Gates from actual artists and critics (Hilton Kramer notwithstanding). It seems to me that NON-artists -- like Keith Olbermann -- have been the harshest (and only) critics of the piece.

Central Park really is magnificent. Newcomers are usually surprised at how many different atmospheres are contained within the park, and how it takes several visits to take the whole thing in. Boston Common it ain't.

Most New Yorkers haven't even explored the whole thing. It was years before I saw the botanical gardens up near 100th Street, for example. Didn't even know they were there.

Central Park-ophiles should check out the C.P. Conservancy's walking tours. They're free, fascinating, and never fail to inspire ever more appreciation for Olmstead and Vaux's masterpiece.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with you here, Majikthise. I thought the Gates were more impressive in person than they were in the many photos I took. Before seeing them in person, I had been rather skeptical about the whole concept and was prepared to be disappointed. Once I saw them, I was blown away. I'm not sure they were worth spending $20 million to put up for 16 days, but I certainly enjoyed checking them out. They looked particularly beautiful from the rooftop garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Why is it you are able to segue from a couple of nervous comments about the Gates into a nuanced discussion of Olmstead and Vaux? If the latter don't confuse you why should Christo?

Personally, I enjoy a heated discussion about the merits of 'what is art' and whether YOU like it and why, as opposed to who has the franchise on democracy and if it should be forced on others. OK, dead giveaway.

But I may be enough of an idiot to ask has art ever killed multitudes?

BTW, can I suggest a blog entry for others to submit their Gates photos? Is that possible?

I didn't mean that my own pictures were more impressive than The Gates. (After reading Orac's comment I had the sinking feeling that I might have given that impression.) I just meant that the installation was a bit of a letdown compared to the very best professional photographs of the exhibit. It seemed to me that the most photogenic features of The Gates weren't the most conspicuous attributes in person.

WK, I don't think I'm confused by the Christos. I think they did a good job. The installation is art, no question. I'm just a little confused by the hype. In the post I used the wrong word to describe the biggest Gates fans. They're not hysterical. They're just way more excited about the exhibit than I am. I'm talking about stalwarts like my friend who walked the entire 23 miles of The Gates twice and all those public-spirited people who volunteered to guard the gates with tennis ball-tipped pikes (to make sure the banners didn't get tangled in the wind). I really respect their commitment, not to mention the generosity of the donors who made the exhibit possible.>Keith Olbermann is being a total dick about The Gates. If anyone is hysterical, it's him and the aforementioned Hilton Kramer.

I can't host other people's Gates pictures because of bandwidth issues, but I'd be more than happy to link to pics posted on other sites. I think there are a few Flickr galleries and others where people can upload their Gates pictures. Let me know.

Lindsay, I didn't mean to imply you were confused. I think I was just talking out my own confusement. I'm fairly new to quote art unquote. It's one of those things, "I know what I like when I see it". We have some original stuff in our house that we like for different reasons: oils, lithos, photos. Cripe, I'm sounding so lame... I've always been more about art created in sound rather than using visual mediums.

I'll check back for outsourcing Gates contributions.

Lindsay, don't you and Thad look lovely in those pictures! Nice to see you out in the sunshine.

I'm not very hip to weird, large-scale public art, but I'm not averse. Anything that enhances public appreciation of a civic space can't be all bad.

But Central Park? Nice enough, but anyone raised on Stanley Park is going to be a little condescending--sorry.


They serve two completely different functions. Stanley Park (which Lindsay and I were both raised on) is basically a nature preserve flanked by a seawall and some beaches. Central Park is a breathtaking work of urban landscape architecture. Stanley Park is impressive in the same way, say, the Grand Canyon is impressive. Central Park is impressive in the same way the Guggenheim is impressive.

Lindsay, I think Hilton Kramer is a solid frontrunner any day of the week for an award for most vehemently incoherent.

I went to NYC to see The Gates, and I thought it was pleasant, but I didn't expect the profoundly negative or positive experience that many people are citing. I tend to experience art better on an intellectual level than in a visceral (emotional, spiritual) way, and I think that The Gates is something of a compromise. C&J-C's work frustrates criticism because it is so intimately linked to public art—it's in the same genus as flash mobs or painted cows—and in some sense, nature: man-made works meant to simulate the experience of natural expanse. And enhance nature, in the case of The Gates, Running Fence, those Umbrellas. I think there's a great deal to be read into his work socially, i.e., confronting bureaucracy, engaging people, etc., especially in works like the Reichstag, but even those don't stray far from from the naturalist reading.

The piece would have been more effective had it been executed when it was proposed; Central Park was something of a shithole, I understand, in the 1970s. But if your experience with CP was enhanced by the project, that's probably as much as anyone can ask out of C&J-C's work.

I don't know whether you've seen C&J-C's projections for Over the River, but I think that's going to be a very strong piece. It doesn't seem to me that C&J-C are working with the most relevant political schema for the contemporary world, their goals either accomplished or made largely irrelevant; so putting their considerable resources toward ephemeral, naturalist works that no one else could hope to accomplish seems like the appropriate finish for their careers.

Also: my girlfriend and I took a strikingly similar picture with The Gates as you and Mssr. Thad (though with considerably more camp).

Creating commentary is what the gates are about, and how big they are , how much they cost, how many people it took to install, bla, bla, bla. All messenger -- no message. Profound, only in the enormity of gas expelled smelled in America, like sweet success. Pathetic.

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