Tuesday, 15 February 2005

The Gates, or, I'm Just Mad About Saffron



I really, really wish I were in New York to see "The Gates", by Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude. Not that I consider Christo among the upper echelon of modern or postmodern artists (hey, the Artfacts rankings back me up here), but his works are always fun to see and experience. And they do make you reconsider the environment. Central Park in February has probably never been this crowded.

Over here in Singapore, the Straits Times put the opening of the Gates on its front page, but reported the story slightly oddly I thought:
New York fired the latest salvo over the weekend when it unveiled a US$20 million (S$33 million) art project by renowned artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude in its famous Central Park. (Link)
I think that para made it sound like the city paid for it, while I thought one interesting thing about "The Gates" is that the project is totally self-funded through the Christos' own sales of photos/films. (Random question: is Jeanne-Claude so well-known that she gets to be single-monickered like Cher and Madonna? The New York Times used "Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude"; the New Yorker assumes you're au fait with the art world and just says "Christo and Jeanne-Claude".) They're "artist-entrepreneurs", as Calvin Tomkins' portrait piece on the Christos in the New Yorker last March called them.

Incidentally, the Tomkins article was great in discussing the business end of the Christos' work (Jeanne-Claude apparently is some sort of financial mastermind). And the couple really did fight like hell over the years to get the art installed:
If you had to name one essential quality that underlies Christo and Jeanne-Claude's career, which is unique in contemporary art, it would probably be perseverance-unbending, implacable perseverance. They have been willing to wait for years or decades to realize some of their grandiose, ephemeral, absurdly beautiful spectacles, working on two or more at a time until they get the necessary permits to go ahead with one of them. (Tomkins, "The Gates to the City: How the Christos plan to transform Central Park". The New Yorker, Mar 29 2004)
They thought of the idea for "The Gates" in 1979, and it's only now opened. Would you fight for 26 years in order to realise your artwork? Amazing. Apparently, yes, you can fight City Hall. It just takes a while.

Link: photos of "The Gates" on Flickr.



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