We create works of art of joy and beauty that have no purpose whatsoever -- like
all true art. It gives us great joy to do this -- and if the public enjoys it,
it is a bonus.
We have chosen Central Park for one of our projects because we have lived in
SoHo for the past 40 years at the same address, and New York is our town. We
wanted to use Central Park because it is in the heart of the city. The 23 miles
of walkways we are using go over the entire park from one of the richest streets
in the world -- 59th Street -- all the way to Harlem and Spanish Harlem. The
diversity of the people living around the park is extraordinary.
There are many parks in the five boroughs of New York City but Central Park is
the only one that is totally cut off from anything natural. Riverside Park is
by the river, a natural element. Prospect Park is surrounded by lovely houses
that have gardens so the trees of the park and the trees of the gardens are mixed
together. But Central Park is absolutely cut off from any other natural element.
It is a pillow of green encased in concrete.
The Gates Project was started in
1979. It took 24 years to get the permit. Thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg
and Patty Harris, the deputy mayor, we now have the permit. Parks Commissioner
Benepe and park administrator Douglas Blonsky also have been unbelievably helpful.
One hundred fifty years ago when Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted started
designing Central Park they surrounded it with a stone wall but they left openings
to allow the public to enter the park. There are no gates, but Mr. Vaux and
Mr. Olmsted called the interruptions in the stone wall gates and gave them
Boys’ Gate, Girls’ Gate, Engineers’ Gate, Warriors’ Gate,
etc. So the word “gate” comes from Mr. Vaux and Mr. Olmsted.
In our Gates Project, we are going to place 7,516 gates along walkways in the
park. The gates are made of vinyl poles 16 feet tall and 5 inches by 5 inches
square. The fabric panels, made of a nylon called ripstop, will hang from the
horizontal top bar. The project will be ready the second half of February 2005
and will remain in place for 16 days.
This is absolutely a project for Central Park. The geometric pattern of the city
blocks -- hundreds of them, all very rectangular -- surrounding Central Park
are in harmony with the geometry of our gates. Our gates are perfectly rectangular,
a reminder of the geometry of the blocks all around Central Park.
We are using only the walkways for the gates. Mr. Vaux and Mr. Olmsted designed
the walkways in a serpentine, noodle-like shape. The fabric panels moving capriciously
in the wind will create many round, voluptuous serpentine shapes, a reminder
of the design of the walkways.
This project will be in February, the only month of the year in which we can
count on there being no leaves on the trees and so from far away you will be
able to see the saffron colored fabric.
We are paying for the project ourselves as we have done for all our previous
projects. We never accept sponsors.
To prepare the gates, we have rented an assembly plant in Maspeth, Queens. That
is where 5,290 tons of steel, 65.11 miles of vinyl poles and 165,352 bolts and
self-locking nuts will be delivered along with 15,032 steel leveling plates so
we know the gates will remain vertical. One million ninety-two thousand square
feet of fabric will be sewn into 7,516 panels, which means 54.11 miles of hems.
Each one of our gates is already numbered and positioned on our engineering map.
We did that last June.
On January 3, 2005, we will enter Central Park. Steel weights that will support
the gates will be placed on the hard surface of the walkways. We will not dig
any holes. Professional workers with forklifts will distribute the steel bases.
Each base weighs 700 pounds, and for each gate you need two -- 1,400 pounds.
The workers have to deliver them to the exact position according to our engineering
Then we have a large number of unskilled workers, usually many students who come
either on their own or as a class project. Everybody is paid. We have no volunteers.
They will secure to the steel base the assembly made of the two vertical poles
and the upper horizontal pole. The fabric panel will be attached to the upper
horizontal pole but you will not see it because it is restrained in a cocoon.
Those workers -- probably 700 of them, we don’t know yet -- will elevate
the gate, bolt it to the bottom weight and leave the fabric restrained in the
cocoon. Each team of seven or eight people will be raising between 70 and 100
gates. By Friday, all the gates should be standing secured, but you still will
not see any fabric.
Then on Saturday morning the teams will open all the cocoons. The fabric will
be freed. We hope that in one long morning the entire park will have the gates
Then these people will remain as monitors to assist the public and answer their
questions. They will distribute hundreds of thousands of fabric samples for free
as we do at every project because the public enjoys having a little souvenir.
Then, after 16 days, the monitors will do the reverse work. They will take down
the gates, remove them from Central Park and by March 15 everything should be
gone and the materials will be recycled.
Christo & Jeanne-Claude are artists who have worked together
for more than 40 years. They are best known for their large-scale projects,
Running Fence,” a curtain/fence of fabric stretching more than 24 and
a half miles from the inland town of Cotati, California to the Pacific Ocean; “Surrounded
Islands” in which 11 islands in Florida's Biscayne Bay were surrounded
with 6.5 million square feet of pink polypropylene fabric; and the “wrapping” of
the Pont Neuf in Paris and the Reichstag in Berlin.
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