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A Walk in the Park:
Excursion to The Gates in New York’s Central Park



"The Gates" is an installation carrying through 23 miles of Central Park’s pathways like orange-colored veins. Ever since its completion on February 12, Jeanne-Claude and Christo’s spectacular art event has been a topic of discussion for art lovers, tourists, and the simply curious. And for New Yorkers, too: Cheryl Kaplan dressed warmly and asked people on location what they thought of the work.




Photo: ©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2005. All rights reserved.
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan


A few days after the opening of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates in Central Park, New York is more or less still in love with 7,500 saffron-colored gates – a gift from the Bulgarian-born Christo and his wife, who have wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont Neuf in Paris, not to mention a few thousand scattered umbrellas in Southern California and Japan. On Saturday, February 12th, crowds swelled to festival size, spreading through the park’s 850 acres. The scene looked like a day at the races: everyone was out, including the family dog. Mayor Bloomberg couldn’t have been happier: hotel rooms were booked solid, tourism went up, and the spill-off crowds in the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday were so large that it was nearly impossible to even get in the door, never mind take the elevator to the Roof Garden for a grand view of Central Park.



William Kentridge and Cheryl Kaplan,
Photo: ©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2005. All rights reserved.
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan


On Saturday, I took my first walk through The Gates with the artist William Kentridge and his wife, Anne. He said: "The Gates look like voting booths." She said: "It looks like laundry day in Tibet." By Tuesday night, the crowds had diminished to the odd straggler or straggler couples sweetly embracing between the curtains. Christo’s project, at first rejected in 1981 in the wake of vehement opposition to the perceived intrusion into the city’s largest and most historical green space, finally gained public acceptance. The financing, however, was to be the sole responsibility of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The cost: more than $20 million dollars to install. All merchandising and souvenirs, including several editions of signed posters of The Gates, will be donated to the not-for-profit Nurture New York’s Nature (NNYN) and the Central Park Conservancy. Established with the proceeds from the license, NNYN encourages awareness and fascination for urban ecology through courses in public schools and colleges.



Photo: ©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2005. All rights reserved.
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan


While the occasional grumbler is quick to say the money would have been better spent feeding the poor, most of New York seems quite pleased at the sheer diversion The Gates is causing. A policeman driving a cart did say: "There are a lot less homeless people in the park because of The Gates." Over the course of a few days, I wanted to see how the park and people’s reactions had changed. Here are some of their comments:

"The color is a bit construction-like, but it really breaks up the deadness of winter."




"The Gates', visitors at Central Park,
Photo: ©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2005. All rights reserved.
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan


"In the beginning it looked ugly. At night now, the posts look like they’re glowing."

"I had a lot of pre-conceived ideas. We wish it could stay longer. It’s probably more of a social statement than an art statement. It makes people feel good, but you don’t need 7,500 of the same thing to say something about art."

"At first it looked like a giant game of croquet."





Photo: ©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2005. All rights reserved.
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan


"The park was full till 6 p.m. Yesterday it was pouring rain and no one came out."

"I saw Christo’s other work on TV. I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about."


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