Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Completely Impartial Review of The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005

If you've been following the pulse-pounding world of conceptual art, you're probably aware that the artist Christo unveiled his latest masterpiece that a five-year-old could've come up with, a $21 million project concisely titled The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005. Christo, you'll recall, is listed in the Directory of Folks Who Don't Think They Need a Last Name as the guy who once draped the Reichstag in fabric and lined California's Trejo Pass with 1,760 yellow umbrellas, one of which collapsed and killed a woman. I guess that little fact is neither here nor there.

Seems like Mr. Christo's idea here involved draping these orange curtains —— I mean, saffron curtains —— over many of Central Park's footpaths. I believe there's something like seven thousand of these curtain structures throughout the park, which is enough fabric to make something like fifteen hundred prison jumpsuits. In my own opinion, The Gates is, in a word, overhyped. When I got to the park, there was a big sales table set up and a huge crowd clamoring to spend their hard-earned money on Gates merchandise. It's not like the installation isn't nice enough or not impressive in scope, but I'd stick my head in a bucket of ice water if I ever considered purchasing a Gates t-shirt. (Actually, I probably should've stuck my head in ice water when I thought hiking through the park in the middle of February was a smart idea.)

Let me describe the Gates experience for you. You come into the park, and there's an orange shower curtain thing set up above you. And then there's another one. And another one. And another one. And another one. And you look to your left, and there's more curtains. And to your right, more shower curtains. And they're orange. What a surprise.

I am kind of surprised that no one's put any stickers promoting their garage band or calling Bush the devil on The Gates' gates. In New York, just about anything that doesn't move is considered fair game for tagging.

Official Gates guides patrol the park, looking for anyone who needs more information about the art. You can ask them questions like, "What the fuck?" and "This is art?" and "Do you have any drops I can put in my burning eyes?" Stuff like that.

To give credit where credit's due, when the wind hits the Gates just right, the curtains take on these interesting billowy forms that echo down the entire path. They're pretty cool. Not twenty-one million dollars cool, but cool.

I was in the park for a little less than an hour and a half, and now I won't be unhappy if I never see orange again.

I realized that this Christo guy and his wife, the similarly surname-less Jeanne-Claude, have a pretty good scheme going here. They set up this rather pedestrian artwork that any moron could conceptualize, even a moron that doesn't know what "conceptualize" means, and evidently they make a good living doing it. They funded the whole Gates project on their own, and Christo even has the ego to drop his last name... because I can't think of any more important figure with that name. Certainly no one who's the son of God come to save humanity from our sins. I'd like to get in on this conceptual art bullshit, and I even came up with an idea. I'm gonna go and glitter all of Central Park — the trees, the roads, the lakes, everything. I'll call it The Glitter, Central Park, New York City, 2005. And I'm gonna drop my last name, too. So from now on, it's just "Jay," please.