Debating 'The Gates'

February 20, 2005|By BALTIMORESUN.COM STAFF

Sun photographer Christopher Assaf offers insight through a close-up view of the project

It is, according to no less an authority than its hometown newspaper, The New York Times, "the first great public art event of the 21st century." But since it was unveiled Feb. 12, exactly what The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005 is or is not has been much discussed: Art? Event? Sublime? Sacrilegious?

Perhaps this close-up view of the project by Sun photographer Christopher Assaf will offer some insight, though the debate - presented in shorthand below - is sure to rage long after The Gates comes down beginning next Monday. But perhaps just what artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude have wrought is beside the point. As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg put it: "I can't promise ... that everyone will love The Gates, but I guarantee that they will all talk about it."

Blowing in the wind: what they're saying about 'The Gates':

"The Gates may be beautiful - but is it art?" - Newsday

"Maybe The Gates is art, maybe it isn't. But it is uncomplicated fun ... " - New York Times

"Aesthetically, emotionally and communally, this is the epitome of what public art can be." - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"A work of pure joy, a vast populist spectacle of good will and simple eloquence, the first great public art event of the 21st century." - New York Times

"It has no purpose. It is not a symbol. It has no hidden message. It is only a work of art." - Gates artist Jeanne-Claude (Financial Times)

"Park visitors had varied interpretations of the exhibit, describing it as everything from a 'big, glowing caterpillar' to a string of 'orange shower curtains.' " - New York Daily News

"They're way, way better than the pandas, pigs, cows and other fiberglass tchotchkes that have 'decorated' our cities over the past decade. But it's only a difference of quality, not kind." - Washington Post

"It is in my opinion bad art, an example of extreme hubris and not pleasing to look at." - letter writer to the New York Times

"A crucial element of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's work is transformation ... The familiar becomes energized in an astonishing way." - Financial Times

"It tries to alter the character of Central Park, but the park has too much personality. It resists Christo and Jeanne-Claude so successfully that it renders their Gates impotent." - Philadelphia Inquirer

"It's too soon to say what The Gates is - it's not finished yet." - Heather Steliga, poet and art school administrator (Newsday)

"All experiences are valid. All feelings and responses are OK." - Jeanne-Claude (Financial Times)

"The impermanence is part of its strength. It has the urgency of a great one-time-only performance to which people are desperate to get tickets." - Boston Globe

"Nobody would like it if it was still here in March." - art critic and historian Irving Sandler (Los Angeles Times)

To see more photos and read impressions of a visit to The Gates by Sun photographer Christopher Assaf, go online to baltimoresun.com/thegates.

"The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005"

Components: These include 60 miles of 5-inch-square tubes, 165,000 bolts and self-locking nuts, 5,290 tons of steel and more than 1 million square feet of vinyl-coated orange fabric.

Artists: Husband-and-wife team of Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Cost: $21 million (artist-financed); 26 years to create, approve, finance and erect.

On exhibit: Free and open to the public 16 days; disassembly will begin Feb. 28. All material used will be recycled.

Online: christojeanneclaude.net; nyc.gov

Sources: Sun news services; christojeanneclaude.net

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