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Art Through Time: A Global View

The Urban Experience Art: The Gates, Project for Central Park, New York

» Christo (American, Bulgarian-born, b. 1935) and Jeanne-Claude (American, French-born, 1935-2009)

The Gates, Project for Central Park, New York

The Gates, Project for Central Park, New York
Artist / Origin: Christo (American, Bulgarian-born, b. 1935) and Jeanne-Claude (American, French-born, 1935-2009)
Region: North America
Date: 1979–2005
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Vinyl poles, nylon fabric, and metal bases
Medium: Architecture and Planning
Dimensions: H: 16 ft. (4.8 m.) (each gate)
Location: New York, NY (temporary installation)
Credit: © Alan Schein Photography/CORBIS

The collaborative artistic team Christo and Jeanne-Claude have been working together on public art projects since 1961.

They consider themselves to be environmental artists, creating extremely large-scale projects in both urban and rural locations. Their past projects have included such feats as stringing an orange curtain across a mountain pass in Colorado in 1972 and surrounding eleven islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with pink fabric in 1983. The pair’s visually dramatic projects require elaborate planning and have taken as many as two decades to carry out from design to execution. Christo and Jeanne-Claude work with all levels of government agencies and myriad local groups and individuals to organize and get permission for their installations. However, they insist on total artistic control and refuse any sponsorship, choosing instead to self-fund their projects.

The artists began planning The Gates in 1979, but did not reach an agreement with New York City to install them until 2003. The Gates were on view in Central Park for two weeks at the end of February 2005. Like many of the artists’ projects, the installation was a vast undertaking. Seven thousand five hundred and three individual gates consisting of saffron-colored vinyl poles and nylon fabric were set up along twenty-three miles of pathways through the park, lending vivid color to the subdued winter landscape. The gates were designed to rest on the pavement, leaving no impact on the natural environment of the park—not even holes in the ground. Christo and Jeanne-Claude were particularly sensitive to the urban park setting. They have described the square, right-angled poles as referring to the grid of city streets surrounding the park. In contrast, they saw the loose-hanging fabric moving fluidly in the wind as evoking the curved park walkways and the bare tree branches.

Expert Perspective:
Anne Pasternak, President and Artistic Director, Creative Time

“Projects like Christo’s Gates in Central Park are great examples of temporary works that have a lasting impression on our memories. Even people who don’t get to see them somehow feel like they know them. And there’s something about their scale that captures a lot of media attention so some people know about them around the world. Christo’s Gates brought millions of people to Central Park in February when normally only maybe tens of thousands of people at the most were going to Central Park and helped boost the local economy and that’s the reason why Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City loves big public art projects. It really helps to boost the local economy. Anytime you went into a restaurant, everybody was talking about it. Every time you went into a taxi, the first thing your taxi driver said to you, ‘Have you seen the Gates? What do you think of the Gates?’ Everybody was talking to everybody. I’d never experienced anything like that in New York City before. Public art is about bringing people together and to share our commonalities and to remind us that we are, in fact, all connected.”

Additional Resources

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Web site.

Fineberg, Jonathan. On the Way to the Gates, Central Park, New York City (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series). Photography by Wolfgang Volz. New Haven: Yale University Press in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005.

Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Finkelpearl, Tom. Dialogues in Public Art. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001.

Knight, Cher Krauss. Public Art: Theory, Practice, and Populism. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

Ronte, Dieter. Christo and Jeanne-Claude: International Projects. London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2004.

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