In February of 2005, the bleak winter landscape of New York’s Central Park was splashed with color when Bulgarian artist Christo Yavacheff and French artist Jeanne-Claude erected hundreds of gates with bright orange curtains along twenty-three miles of Central Park pathways. Construction of the art piece took 5,390 tons of steel, 315,491 feet of vinyl tubing, and 99,155 square meters. The gates were assembled in Long Island and trucked to the park, where they had to be erected without being bolted or dug into the park.
The exhibit ran from February 12, 2005 through February 27, 2005, and to claim that it received “mixed” reviews is to betray a lack of basic understanding as pertains to the contrarian nature of the city. You could go door to door and give everyone a million tax-free dollars, and half of New York would still register complaints and write angry op-eds. I thought The Gates were a lot of fun splashed across a landscape that is, upon first impression, rather lacking when most of it is dead.
The Gates not only added color to the brown, but it also helped illustrate how dramatic the layout of Central Park is even without its trees and grassy commons. Outlined with saffron curtains, you could get a wonderful impression of the rolling hills and dramatic contours of the park, to say nothing fo the vastness of its network of walkways. It also brought some four million people, both tourists and New Yorkers, to the park during a time of year when outdoor promenading was not generally undertaken. Following the gates also led us to discover hidden away parts of the park we’d never seen.
I went that day armed only with a Holga camera and a cheap but fun little keycam (this being in the years before high quality phone cameras were ubiquitous.