Sunday, February 13, 2005

"The Gates" open in NYC

When I first heard about "The Gates," the first major public art display of the 21st century, I wasn't pleased. After all, $21 million seems like a lot of money to be throwing around given all the needs of people in the world. In reflection, however, and with a little help from others, I realized that this $21 million was hardly wasted.

Think of it this way: public art is for everyone. Quite literally, no one can be stopped for marveling at this creation --- Central Park is open to all comers. Most spectactual artwork is locked away inside dusty museums, never available to the masses of people that could potentially use a source of beauty and hope in their world. Christo's "The Gates" does just that. Quoting the NY Times review by Michael Kimmelman:

Central Park is in fine shape today, but the project still has a social value, in gathering people together for their shared pleasure. Some purists will complain that the art spoils a sanctuary, that the park is perfect as it is, which it is. But the work, I think, pays gracious homage to Olmsted's and Vaux's abiding pastoral vision: like immense Magic Marker lines, the gates highlight the ingenious and whimsical curves, dips and loops that Olmsted and Vaux devised as antidotes to the rigid grid plan of the surrounding city streets and, by extension, to the general hardships of urban life.

The gates, themselves a cure for psychic hardship, remind us how much those paths vary, in width, and height, like the crowds of people who walk along them. More than that, being so sensitive to nature, they make us more sensitive to its effects.

We didn't need the gates to make us sensitive, obviously. Art is never necessary. It is merely indispensable.

At its best, it leads us toward places we might not have thought to visit. Victor Hugo once said, "There is nothing more interesting than a wall behind which something is happening." This also applies to gates, which beckon people to discover what is beyond them (emphasis added).

I can't wait to go see it.


At 9:05 AM, Blogger jrl20 said...

According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs which you discuss above, shouldn't the least of these have their material needs -- food and shelter -- met first, before we worry about less concrete psychic or aesthetic needs? Wouldn't this have been a better use of 21 million? I'm not sure I buy this from a social gospel perspective.

At 11:05 PM, Blogger jj said...

Well I can't disagree with that. I guess my affection for "The Gates" is purely settling. Kind of like buying a homeless guy a beer instead of a pressed suit...

At 7:39 AM, Blogger jrl20 said...

In your defense, it was private money. Any expenditure that benefits others in any way has got to better than what most people would have spent the $21 mill on. Crap for themselves....


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