Gates at Central Park


The Gates brought us to Central Park, not once but many times. We wanted to visit our son in NYC anyway, and by fortunate circumstance our daughter's school break coincided with The Gates. I'm sure the countless dogs in the park, many impeccibly dressed, were mostly native New Yorkers, but for the rest of us, from upstate, California, Germany or Japan, The Gates drew us to the park and kept drawing us back.

Our first glimpse was on Saturday evening from a cab: over the 59th Street Bridge, across 61st, left onto Fifth Avenue and there they were, monumental, vivid amid throngs of milling people. Our first visit was on Sunday, the day beautiful and warm, the grass green, the paths filled with many, many people. The Gates helped me see wonderful details of the park: paths converging, narrowing, widening, the lightposts, the benches, the underpasses, the reflections off water. Sunday night produced a dusting of snow and the green mostly disappeared.

Monday evening cocktails at dusk in a 22nd floor apartment on Central Park South: The Gates from above, winding through the park, disappearing uptown in the fading light. Wednesday afternoon: snow flurries starting as daylight waned, the park uncrowded, colorless except for the gates, gorgeous. The snow fell hard that evening, and we returned from the Village for an amazing walk through the beautiful fresh snow. The Gates brought us there; without them, we would have missed this magical moment in the park freshly coated with nighttime snow.

Thursday morning: crisp lines of pure white fresh snow delineating the crosspiece atop each gate. Friday: a leisurely walk from 59th to 96th. Saturday: a long, fond farewell on the supercrowded next-to-last day of the installation.

Sally noted that she had thought Christo's drawings were largely black and white to accentuate the bright orange gates, but on seeing them she understood that the winter landscape of the park, unfamiliar to a native Californian, is indeed largely monochromatic. She also saw that only an installation in winter would allow us to see the gates across distances, through leafless trees. The character of the park changed with the light and the weather: green before the snow, white after, washed out at dusk, under bright blue or hazy gray sky, windy or still, and character of the gates changed too. Central Park would have been beautiful without The Gates, but The Gates brought us to into the park and made us look and illuminated its beauty.

Thanks to Christo and Jeanne-Claude for this extraordinary work.


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Central Park, New York City, 2/20-26/05.