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New York City's Golden Gates

   By: Tara Renee Settembre

The greatest city on earth has another reason to brag with the unveiling of the long-awaited public art project The Gates by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Despite its popularity, some visitors feel the $21 million art installation is not art at all. Whether a work of art or spectacle, the orange flags strung like a ribbon throughout Central Park are sparking conversation and drawing in visitors by the subway load.

According to the Central Park Conservancy, which sells official Gates merchandise at the Park’s entrance on 59th Street, 10 to 20 million people are expected to visit the park during the 16 days that The Gates are on display.

“February is the slowest month for tourism in the city and the exhibit has already brought an unexpected number to the park, which is usually dead in the winter,” said Central Park Conservancy staff member, Chris Trimbull, 25. “I think it’s more popular than anyone had realized.”

Before The Gates opened, a mere 200,000 visitors were expected, however, the day after Mayor Michael Bloomberg unfurled the 1,089,882 square feet of streaming saffron fabric along 23 miles of park paths, attendance was already at 700,000 people.

Standing 16 feet high, The Gates are attracting the young, elderly, tourists and students alike, who took photographs, held hands, and observed the temporary display, despite temperatures falling below freezing.

New York's AM news station 1010 WINS recently conducted an online web poll asking if The Gates are art or joke. Out of 1298 respondents, 65% said joke.

Lou Quillio is in agreement. With his sister and two daughters, he drove three hours from Saratoga, New York to see the golden gates. “It’s just a thing, it’s less the art and more the social aspect, it’s an attraction and a spectacle,” said Quillio.

His sister Susan, however, disagreed, saying, “It’s beautiful against all the gray rocks and bare trees.”

No matter what people thought, everyone visiting the park seemed to discuss the artistic merits of the project, even talking to strangers in a city of people who rarely make eye contact.

The communal experience, says Beth Fichtel who works in Manhattan, is better than the 7,500 steel structures wrapped throughout the park. “The energy in the air is contagious and it’s cool to be in something as enormous as Central Park and be surrounded by tons of people all talking about the same thing.”

While he jogged underneath the colorful billowing fabric, Manhattan resident Danny Schwartz asked, “I like it, but I don’t think it can be defined as art, but who’s to say really?”

Well, architectural student Amanda Herron, 22, reverently believes that Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work is highly creative and refused to miss their recent endeavor, so she flew in from Alabama just for the event.

“Their art is inspiring, we study their installations in school and how they are able to change a space dramatically, then leave and change what people originally thought of the space,” said Herron. “It is so interesting, it comes and people soak it in, and then it’s gone.”

Herron further suspects that even after The Gates are removed, people will still be discussing them. For now her theory is true, The Gates are a big topic of conversation and debate at the office, in the news and around the world.

About the Author

Tara is currently going for her masters degree in journalism at NYU. She freelances articles for tri-state publications and writes a daily blog, When Tara Met Blog

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