During the December TV doldrums, try to catch the wonderful documentary, THE GATES, now running on HBO. The Gates chronicles the long and winding road that artists Christo and his wife Jeanne Claude endured to erect their gorgeous public art project in Central Park. It starts in 1979, when they first approached NYC officials to get permission for their progressive effort. If you ever want to see the utter banality, futility and folly of bureaucracy in action, watch the first 30 minutes of The Gates. Even though Christo and Jeanne Claude always intended to use their own money (ultimately $20 million) to produce this art spectacle, they were accused of being everything from racists to environmental terrorists.
Fast forward to 2005, and Mayor Bloomberg, an art lover, finally gave the famous artists the thumbs up. The documentary shows the flowing orange curtains being erected, unfurled and, most gloriously, enjoyed thoroughly by an appreciative populace. As children run through the Gates, and lovers stroll hand in hand, and musicians play symphonies and Buddhist monks worship, The Gates are vindicated and public art triumphs.
I had the extreme good fortune of seeing The Gates in person, when they briefly turned the grey winter sidewalks of Central Park into a trail of golden glory. Beautiful Jean Claude, who's flame colored hair matched the color of the nylon panels in the artwork, just passed away this November 2009 at the age of 74. This documentary, which can be found on HBO on Demand, is a fitting tribute to her tenacity and talent.