Christo's ‘Gates'


It may seem pointless, and in a lovely way it is, to install a series of frames containing large hanging saffron rectangles over twenty-three miles of Central Park pathways. But after years of trying, in February the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude managed to bring it off. Called The Gates, the project involved the installation of 7,532 frames, and the fabric was hung so high that the tallest people could walk along the paths easily. The money was raised by the artists, and much of it went to pay those who installed the work, and to pay monitors who directed people to interesting routes and also used poles to unfurl banners tangled by the wind.

A gate is an entrance point, and in the Christo/Jeanne-Claude installation one gate is the entrance to another, and another, all leading eventually to divergent points-do you go up this hill, down that one, or straight ahead? The light changes as you walk, shining through some panels, shadowed in others, and the winds change the vista. All is transitory, and by the time you read this, The Gates will be gone.

What you notice entering Central Park (we started at the south end, where the horse and carriage rides can be hired and even on a cold winter day the scent of horse manure perfumes the air) is how many people are smiling. They are uncommonly polite-maybe because so many are visitors and not New Yorkers-and a lot of them are taking pictures. I’ve never seen...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.