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Husband-wife Artistic Team Christo and Jean-Claude Take Central Park by Storm

Elizabeth F. Clayton

The Gates, the seminal piece of work by husband-wife artistic team Christo and Jean-Claude, was installed in Central Park, New York, from Feb. 12 through Feb. 28. Involving 7,500 “gates” made of vinyl, steel, and nylon fabric, the installation stretched along the walkways and roads of the park for a total of 23 miles. Each gate was 16 ft. tall, and they varied in width from 5.5 ft. to 18 ft., depending on the width of the walkway. The fabric hung down loosely to seven feet above the ground. The effect was of a modern ceremonial walkway, the fabric blowing like banners with the wind.

For the 16 days that The Gates was up, the park was transformed. Usually hurried New Yorkers stopped and strolled on their way across town, and the weekends brought in hundreds of thousands tourists, booking normally half-empty hotels to capacity in February, traditionally one of the slowest tourism periods. The artists picked February for the date of the installation so that they could guarantee the branches of the trees would be bare, the better to show off the vibrant color of the art.

When snow hit the city halfway through the show, it gave both the artists, who had been working on this project since 1978, and the public the chance to see the gates in another way, as the contrast of the orange against the white was even more stunning.