Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The Gates, 1979-2005
Central Park, NYC
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
All images by A.L.H. (me!)
One of my favorite public art projects of all time (though my bias is strong since I worked with the project) is The Gates at Central Park. Not only did I have the first hand experience of visiting the gates, I worked for a week as an "Ambassador" greeting and talking with visitors and handing out swatches of the fabric from the curtains. It was one of the best experiences of my life so far.
This is an example of a temporary public art project. Public art is not always site specific, but The Gates is wholly specific. The Gates extend throughout all 10 miles of Central Park. As you can see from the date above it took almost 30 years for the project to be realized, from the first bid in 1979 to Mayor Bloomberg approving of the project in 2003. The Gates, all 16 feet high range in width based on the width of the walk ways
As with all public art there were mixed reviews, yet from my account it leaned toward positive rather than negative. It was amazing how strongly many people felt about the work, I had people hug me, people yell at me. I met people from all over the world (high turn out of Germans due to the Wrapped Reichstag). For many, it was pure fascinating at the spectacle of it all. Many people were angry that so much money was spent on the project (one woman going on about how you could open a hospital for sick children - note she is yelling at me in a fur coat and hat). Part of my job was to explain the details of the project in this regard and correct misconceptions Christo and Jeanne-Claude fully fund all over their projects, they use no local money (The city of nyc put no money into the project, in fact the project created temporary jobs and was a huge boom for street sellers and the Central Park Conservancy) or donations, money is raised through the sale of preparatory drawings of the project.
I basked in the awesome glory of a packed Central Park in the dead of winter. Sure, it is used year round but NEVER to this extent. It was fantastic that in the 2 weeks that the Gates were up the weather shifted so they could be seen on sunny days, snow covered days, windy and still. I could go on, but check our more pics on my flickr page.