I finally made it up to see Christo’s Gates on the last weekend before their close. Approaching the park I could see a few of the garish, flaglike objects stuck intermittently along the pathway, an effect that continued throughout the park. Unlike Christo’s other works, the Gates aroused no feelings of grand scale or totality. Rather, one got the feeling that a parade of sorts has been commissioned and that the “gates” were flags marking the route, their jarring color having more to do with safety then beauty. The idea of that it was a ribbon to highlight the beauty of the park is misguided. It was more distracting then anything else.
Many people responded to the work, crediting it for bringing so many people to the park. While this is true in some respects, it is disheartening that such a spectacle is what it takes to lure people in, especially when compared to another recent work in Central Park, Janet Cardiff’s audio walk. Cardiff’s work consisted of a CD player that guided the viewer to various spots in the park and an envelope of photos to hold up at these places and compare the views. It engaged with the park on it’s own terms and taught the viewer (listener?) things he/she may not have known about the landscape. Cardiff’s piece was far more engaging then Christo’s and was executed at a fraction of the cost. The Gates seem to be just another example of New York’s gradual move away from its historical legacy of sophisticated art into displays of poor taste marketed to those with no patience for subtlety.