February 20, 2005
Everyone’s talking about The Gates, and the first thing they say is that everyone’s talking about The Gates. Tonight at my neighborhood coffeehouse/bar, a loud man behind me discusses the project and the use of the word “saffron.” At a party in Philadelphia last night, a Bulgarian woman, claiming Christo for Bulgaria, says that she’s seen the piece. On the train back from New York before that, a women in line in the café car explains that although she was skeptical at first, she found a metaphor for the decisions we make life, the way that we must make decisive choices that put us on one path or another. She says it made her cry.
“Talking about it is not the point, Christo said[, talking about it.]” “‘You ask us to talk. This project is not involving talk. It’s a real physical space. It is about seeing. You spend time. You experience the project,’ he said as he grew visibly irritated at journalists’ queries about the inner meaning of ‘The Gates’. ‘If you are young you should walk all 23 miles. If you are old, two is good,’ he snapped.”
Christo and Jeanne-Claude told the New York Times that “the meaning of ‘The Gates’ would be found by those who walked through it.” Plenty of meaning has been found: Jewish meaning, Feng Shui meaning, communal meaning, anti-Bloomberg meaning.
The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005 was surely not conceived more than 25 years ago with the meanings that have been found today. It seems remarkable, though, that it attracts so much attention from locals and tourists in today’s New York City, and that it is a construction, an artifact, a work of art, something added to the world. For the last three and half years, the main attraction in Manhattan has been a mournful absence that can be viewed from a memorial platform. Christo and Jeanne-Claude have offered something else: intentionally temporary, without obvious purpose, full of unmistakable color. If people wish to think, let them pass through The Gates thinking. If they wish to delight in the fabric and archways, they may. What else should we ask for but permission, however temporary, to talk to one another, to dream, and to smile?