by Maria Manhattan
The Gates are Glorious!!!
Merry and I have
spent the last few days walking, walking, walking through the Gates.
It has been a joyous, spectacular, fantastic, and unprecedented
event in this jaded city!
The park has been
full, even today, a weekday. It's like the 60's with people
wandering, strolling, talking about art, the only thing missing is
the aroma of weed. I guess it's because everyone is now on
prescription drugs. This project is a great healing for this city.
It is the first time we've come together just to be together, since
that tragic time four years ago. I think this is a balm, a salve
for the city. And there is total appreciation for it. Sunday, they
sold more hot dogs in the park than any other day in HISTORY!!! And,
they ran out of pretzels!
Merry and I went to the unfurling; it was fun to watch them roll
down, one at a time. I've been in the park every day. I've taken
hundreds of pictures.
The entire city is
stoned on The Gates. It has cast a spell. A friend told me her 84
year old aunt has been four times by subway from the Bronx. Kids
think it is "cool." Christo and Jeanne-Claude may do more projects,
but nothing will ever touch people's hearts like this has. I think
we are heading towards the two million visitors number. Many
families, it crosses all lines. Big smiles everywhere.
Yesterday I took
Betsy and her camera crew on a tour.
We interviewed people
and it was just wonderful to hear people talk about beauty and art
and the abstract and obtuse nature of it. They like it and they
don't know why except that it gives them a good feeling, it's fun,
you have to walk it, experience it. You can't just see it on TV. I
have been countless times with many friends. It's different all the
time. Merry and I did the north end of the park over the weekend.
That was more like being in the country. The wide vistas were
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I’ve run into Christo
and Jeanne-Claude on two occasions. What a thrill!
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Bethesda fountain, marveling at the crowds drawn to this amazing
display of billowing saffron fabric, I wonder, when was the last
time millions of New Yorkers came together to simply saunter, stroll,
take a walk in the park and contemplate the path of a breeze by
following it through hanging fabric? People are discussing color,
and the effect of light on color. They’re looking at The Gates with
big smiles, and pointing out subtleties of design. They’re thinking
about why the tops of The Gates are all level even though the ground
The allure of the quiet, mysterious, noncommercial aspect of the
piece, the abandoning of the intellectual, “what is it?” factor, and
the giving into the experience, all make this event completely
unique. And the thrill at being able to actually own a physical
piece of it by simply asking a worker for a swatch of fabric is all
utterly amazing. We have nothing to compare this to. It crosses
all lines. It is a true Happening. And it feels a little like
everyone is stoned.
The avoidance of commercialism at every turn is simply
incomprehensible in our world. Even that bastion of the art world,
the dealer, is locked out! The artists are their OWN dealers. How
totally avant-garde! You can buy a tee shirt, or any number of
other souvenirs, but even here, your mind is blown because you are
making a contribution to Central Park, not the creators of The Gates
who make no money from these mementos.
How thrilling to hear millions of people discussing art rather than
sports, to see hundreds of thousands of families travel miles to
take a walk through The Gates in mid February and allow themselves
to contemplate and be affected by it. We’re talkin’ family values,
here. Art is restorative, redemptive, healing. The last time we
were compelled to come together and explore a deeper part of
ourselves was of course the tragedy of September 11th. Our behavior
changed. The magnitude, the scale, the wonder of the tragedy left
us dwarfed, left us to reinvent our behavior so it would fit our
shared grief and love for this city and each other. Remember the
quiet, the wondering when you would hear the first car horn in
traffic, the holding a door for the person behind you?
The coming together for The Gates, is the opposite side of that coin,
another monumental behavior changer. I am so grateful to Christo
and Jeanne-Claude for their insistence on fun, pointlessness, beauty;
the promotion of the promenade, the stroll, the saunter. They have
given us an opportunity to express our humanity again, in such a
positive way. The spell of it, the transformative effect of it has
touched the hundreds of thousands who have come to see what this is
all about. It works in every language.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects by nature bring people together.
But this one, in their home city, the art capital of the world, has
given we art teachers in particular, a gift, a credibility in the
world at large, that is much appreciated. People walk through the
park wearing clothing emblazoned with their team’s logos. These
sports fans have finally come to see my team play! Wow! What a
great feeling. I love it. And in this day when Art is the first
subject to be thrown out of the classroom, it is wonderful to see
art standing tall in all it’s power and glory, reminding us of its
very important place in our contemporary lives, and its enormous
power to transform, redeem, communicate, and inspire.
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By Maria Manhattan
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