I am drawn to the story of The Gates, the exhibit that was launched yesterday in Central Park consisting of 7,500 metal frames bolted to the park's sidewalks, each with an orange sheet hanging from it. The "artists" who created this massive faux clothesline display prefer that they not be called orange; they ask that we call them saffron. It gives this "artistic" display refinement.
My interest isn't in the exhibit. It is the sort of thing that my three-year-old grandchildren could have created - and probably have - with the laundry.
I am drawn to the kind of people who are drawn to such idiocy. Here are some of the reactions of people who journeyed to Central Park to stand in awe of the orange sheets:
"It's a bit insane, but that's why everybody is here," said Ali Naqui, who was brought to the unveiling against his will by his fiancee. (link)How does the artist, Christo, describe the work that he poured all his creative efforts into?
"It's a waste of money, but it's fabulous," said student Shakana Jayson. "It brings happiness when you look at it." (link)
"I think it's fantastic," said Dominique Borel, who was walking her dog, Mickey, on Friday. "I love it. I think it's exhilarating." (link)
Thea Stone said the artists "created a temple in the park; it's become like a holy place to walk." (link)
"I came for this. It's poetry in motion. It's for the moment — a kind of Zen," said Barbara Knorr, a German-speaking visitor who came from Switzerland just to see the exhibit created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. (link)
"It's very difficult," explained Christo. "You ask us to talk. This project is not involving talk. It's a real, physical space. It's not necessary to talk. You spend time, you experience the project." (link)Translation: The project has no meaning. It's an experience. On par with a bowel movement.
Many of the admirers of the orange sheets on display probably walked right past the Metropolitan Museum of Art to "experience" The Gates. Had they walked into the Met, they would have been truly inspired. For there they would have found artistry as crafted by the finest artisans the world has ever produced; Reubens, Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Piero della Francesca.
Instead the locals were told to go see The Gates. To "experience."
They did. None of them seemed to know quite what that meant, but they dutifully responded.
I grappled with the correct definition of the word "art" many years ago - no small task - and decided, after studying intently (from a distance of about two feet) a Reubens painting, that the definition is something close to this:
Any sculpture, painting, or drawing that I could never replicate is art.
Only in my dreams could I ever, ever replicate this.
Christo's clotheslines are not art and Christo is no artist. He is a hustler. A modern-day (wealthy) snake oil salesman.
And the people who stand in awe of his saffron gates remind me of the villagers in that fable from my youth who expressed their admiration for the emperor's clothes - before some child broke the shocking news to them. The emperor was nude.