A Yahoo At Christo's Gates

A tourist's view of the installation of Christo's The Gates I got a close up preview of the artist Christo and his collaborater/mate Jeanne-Claude’s latest Big Art piece, “The Gates”, two days before it opened, courtesy of my friend Aaron Schecter, a legendary music business accountant and one-time business partner of Houston producer Huey P. Meaux. Aaron lives on Park Avenue, three blocks from Central Park, where “The Gates”, consisting of 7,503 saffron colored banners affixed to framed posts, is sited. I walked with Aaron along a mile and a half of the 23 mile piece that winds through the park. Twenty six years in the making, it is the largest public art project ever mounted in the city. Aaron and his wife Elaine are volunteers with the Central Park Conservancy. During the art’s two week run, they will be in the park serving as guides to provide information and assistance to visitors, something which they both enjoy doing during the summer. Several hundred thousand tourists are expected to come to witness “The Gates”.

The actual frames were installed in five days. Most of the frames where the banners would be unfurled Saturday morning were already up, with a few still being installed by a team of several hundred workers selected from thousands of applicants who registered two years ago on Christo’s website. Similar Christo installations at the Reichstag in Berlin, in the hills of Sonoma County near San Francisco, and elsewhere have evidently created an art cult not unlike the followers of the Grateful Dead. Those chosen are being paid slightly more than $6 an hour for their efforts. Among them is former Texas Governor Ann Richards, who is the rock star among the workers, according to a woman from Philadelphia and a man from Boston who were busy tightening bolts of one frame near 59th Street (the New York Times liberally quoted her in an advance article. Both installers Aaron and I talked to said they considered it an honor to be participating and gushed enthusiastically about the project and the people working on it. “It’s a lifetime experience,” one said. They opened up their tool kit which included a saffron-colored level and two standard issue wrenches. The bolts and other hardware were made in India.
All the pieces will be recycled once the project ends.

Even with the banners still wrapped tightly around the top cross beam, the frames winding through the park made quite a visual impact, resembling a huge ski slalom course, only prettier.

Aaron said Christo anticipated graffiti being tagged on the posts and was OK with it; the plastic posts can be easily wiped, although street art being affixed to the art art was part of the art, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. I speculated the banners would flap low enough to be grabbed, ripped and even stolen. The worker from Boston said he wasn’t so sure. He’d seen two kids holding on to the banner and hanging down and the fabric held just fine.

I expressed disappointment that the piece would be up only a couple weeks. Aaron and the two workers said that was part of the art. Christo would record and document the piece and do very well financially, thank you.

His next piece is scheduled for Colorado in two years. Check out his web site if you want to apply to work on that installation www.christojeanneclaude.net

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