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NEW YORK - They’re uglier than I thought.
“The Gates” - the artist Christo’s long-planned installation of 7500 orange
portals in Central Park here - are now complete. They, as The New York Times
put it, “blossomed today,” as rectangles of similarly-hued fabric were
draped from each of the gates that sit astride all of the park’s 23 miles of
They look like crap.
The great thing about being an artist, of course, is that you can call
anything you make - from $21,000,000 worth of ‘gates’ to a 25-cent phone
call - “art.” And if anybody disagrees with you, you can call them a
Christo previously filled a California valley with yellow umbrellas, and
once dressed up the Reichstag in aluminum fabric (fortunately for all of us,
he did this in 1995, not earlier). He claims to have been planning this
newest version of “public art” since 1979.
Evidently he rushed it.
Even before the fabric was installed this morning, the gates looked like
over-sized track and field hurdles that the artists optimistically
identified as "saffron" in color. They are, in fact, screaming psychedelic
paint orange: the same awful color they make road cones, and those stupid
barrel things that block off traffic lanes.
As I said on Countdown Thursday, they look like a terrible mistake of some
sort -- like somebody was trying to build something and ran out of money. I
expected then that the vast billowing orange bed-sheets still to be hung,
would make Central Park look like it was filled with the rotting shells of
Turned out I was being kind.
When the wind is calm, the fabric hangs there looking like nothing less than
highway maintenance or detour signs with their messages covered over. When
the breeze flutters, they resemble ugly, cheap, plastic shower curtains,
stolen from some $29-a-night motel, drying on somebody’s backyard
It’ll be getting better soon. As I write this, nightfall approaches. Once it
gets dark I won’t be able to see them as well.
I might note here that I am as aesthetic as the next guy. My father is an
architect and I inherited some of his skills and most of his perception of
design and form. I have original art on my walls and a nice kitschy 10-foot
tall Mona Lisa in my dining room. I don’t know much about art, but I know
what I hate.
There are three non-artistic problems here, too.
I live across the street from Central Park. I don't have to -- it's my
choice and I don't seek your sympathy. But I do it because Central Park is
inherently beautiful: winter, summer, spring and fall. If you live in this
city, and you can afford to have a window that shows you just a swatch of
the park, you must. It reconnects you to the Earth. It reminds you of every
green place you’ve ever been. And it's almost non-commercialized. I can't
see a billboard or an advertisement from my window -- and not a lot of
people in a city anywhere in this country can say that. I don't need a bunch
of giant, glowing orange croquet wickets fouling that up.
Problem number two: despite the anticipated revenues from tourism, despite
the private funding by Christo and friends -- the city says it's going to
have put hundreds of cops in Central Park, to protect "The Gates." There
have already been attempts to vandalize and graffiti-ize them.
My alibi is airtight - and I will not testify against my neighbors.
The city will spend thousands of dollars of my taxpayer money to pull the
cops from things like, ohhh, counter-terrorism and crime prevention, to make
sure nobody spray-paints any of the 7,500 "Gates" with the message "You Left
Your Laundry Out, Lady."
Lastly, there is that awful, awful, color - and its inspiration. They can
call it “saffron” from now until doomsday. What it is, it turns out, is the
exact color of the hair of Mrs. Christo, his fellow artist Jeanne-Claude. So
now, every time I see one of these nightmare, cheesy, poorly-spaced, garish,
ugly glow-in-the-dark orange things despoiling the view of the simple
natural beauty of Central Park, I gotta think of this dame, too.
New York City believes that between 90-thousand and 200-thousand tourists
will come to town to see them between now and when they are mercifully
removed (hopefully by volunteers with axes) on February 27th. I interacted
with some of the tourista this afternoon, watched as they reached up to
touch them just the way the antenna touches those rubber mats as your
vehicle enters the carwash. And I thought of the old story of the Emporer’s
New Clothes. Only the really hip, the really artistic, can tell just how
beautiful The Gates are. Everybody else is a Philistine.
But I noticed something else: New Yorkers walking their dogs through the
park, as they do, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And as they passed these
strange glowing trellises, the dogs were invariably marking them.