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Wednesday, March 09, 2005 | NEW YORK- One can’t see all 7,500 saffron (not orange) structures at once. Rather, the viewer of this art work saunters through a dell next to the duck pond warmly embraced by a tunnel of gates. Or he is drawn onto an uphill path through a vista of reiterating gates each framing the next. Or his eye traces the serpentine paths ahead through the graceful curvature of a series of gate tops. Or he surveys the snow-covered Great Lawn bejeweled by a necklace of gates. Or he observes the ballet of a sequence of curtains as the winter wind whips down a path. This is the experience of seeing Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Gates”, the recent art installation covering all 23 miles of walkways throughout New York city’s famed oasis, Central Park.

The Gates’ detractors

Ideas for “The Gates” began percolating in the minds of Christo and Jeanne-Claude minds as early as 1979. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, cleverly required that the exhibit be scheduled in February, normally a dead time in NYC tourism. The result was an extra $81 million in tourism income for NYC during the 16 days of the exhibit, which ran from Feb. 12 to Feb. 27.

Despite the challenging weather, the exhibit was warmed by 100 workers scattered throughout the park. They were identifiable by the poles they were holding with tennis balls securely mounted on their tips. Their purpose was to “tend the curtains” by straightening them out should the wind wrap them around their support poles. These “gate tenders” were also trained to act as docents to help the viewers interact with the art and with one another. They also gave out samples of the specially designed curtain fabric, something to be kept “in perpetuity” as a remembrance of this fleeting artwork.

Visitors exemplify diversity

Christo and Jeanne-Claude in San Diego?

Martha Dennis, Ph.D., is a venture partner with Windward Ventures and chairs the City of San Diego Science and Technology Commission and is the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s board president.

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