Christo’s The Gates: An Appreciation

It was an audacious project: 7500 saffron-orange gates covering 23 miles of footpaths in Central Park.  A work of art some 25 years in the making, with an estimated total cost of $21 million, paid for by the artist.  And it had the whole city talking.

The installation opened on February 12, 2005 and was up for two weeks.  The original plan, submitted in 1979, called for 15,000 gates, anchored by plunging the poles in the ground.  The Parks Department, which didn’t see the point of the installation anyway, didn’t want to be left with thousands of holes in Central Park, and in 1981 the department denied Christo’s application.

The Christos revised their proposal to address the city’s concerns. The number of gates was reduced to 7,500, and the event was scheduled for February, traditionally a quiet month in the park. There was, however, one lingering deal-breaker: the matter of the holes. “Digging 15,000 holes, damaging tree roots, digging through rock, that would have been impossible,” says Commissioner Benepe.…

Christo solved the problem by developing temporary banner-holders with solid bases: no holes needed.  And with the backing of newly elected Mayor Mike Bloomberg, The Gates project could go into full development.

The day I was there, the saffron gates billowed in the wind; scudding clouds would pass and the fabric glowed in the sun, a brilliant contrast to the February brown of the surrounding park.  My friend John and I began our encounter with the installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; but the view from the rooftop deck wasn’t as good as we’d hoped, so we walked west through the park, literally through the art.

It was magical.  As we approached Central Park West, we walked up a small hill to get an overview of The Gates in that section of the park, when a red-tailed hawk cried, landing in a nearby tree.  (It might have been Pale Male, John thought.)  In its talons, it held a mouse: lunch!


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  1. It really was amazing.

    • srkp23 on February 2, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    I loved the Gates. I live a block away from Central Park, and try and take walks there often. I loved going out there in the early morning when The Gates were there. Truly memorable.  

  2. That is just wonderful…

  3. just a few days before the banners were unfurled.  All I saw were the orange frame structures.  But it was still pretty cool.    I remember all the internet spoofs at the time as well.   Like this one – Christo’s crackers:


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