The Gates are Open
The Gates of Central Park from high above Central Park South. 1:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Saturday was grey. And cold of course, although not too. I was invited to an “unveiling of The Gates” party on Fifth Avenue by Fredi and Steve Friedman. It was called for nine o’clock. Groan. At nine o’clock I was still locked in my deep fatigue from having been up late.

Saturday is a day I prefer having no appointments, dates or social obligations, or even phone calls — having just finished out a week of them. However, because of the Christos, this was no ordinary Saturday in New York. I finally rose from my torpor with the feeling that everyone would be heading toward Central Park for a look, like it was when you were a kid and didn’t want to miss the parade.

About noontime I went with JH and the Digital over to the penthouse terrace of Boykin Curry and Celerie Kemble who live on Central Park South. There were crowds at the foot of the Park on Fifth Avenue already. From that corner you can see the “The Gates.” At first they were very foreign to the eye, and, a Saturday, they were not particularly pretty under those seemingly chronic cloudy New York winter skies.

Boykin Curry and Celerie Kemble
The Curry/Kemble terrace is sprawling with enough room for chairs, benches, buffet tables and maybe a game of badminton. It has a magnificent view of the entire Central Park and its residential periphery. From there, twenty-seven floors up, "The Gates" stood out of the brown thicket of defoliated trees below, because of their hot orange color. But that was it. City views, Park views from a higher elevation are always intoxicating, no matter what. The Christos’ project, from that vantage looked almost disappointingly inert. You might have wondered if it were really such a good idea in the first place.

An aside, on the subject of Art and Artists: Peggy Siegal introduced us to another guest, Jason Blum, a film producer who also happens to be the son of Irving Blum, one of the great 20th century art dealers who has mainly worked out of Los Angeles. We talked about the first Andy Warhol Campbell Soup boxes which Irving Blum bought (and sold some of) when Warhol first made them. For $100 a piece. Some of them were sold to Blum’s friends who put them in their kitchens over their stoves and in their breakfast nooks because they seemed kitschy. Although not art; not really.

There were thirty-six in the original series. Twenty or so remained unsold. Finally Blum made a deal with Warhol to buy all of them over a period of twenty months at a hundred a pop (if you’ll pardon the pun). Then Blum bought back the others from people who were happy to have enjoyed the novelty and getting their money back. He just decided to leave them to the future. Decades later – two or three, Irving Blum turned over the series to MoMA. The price was something like $12 million. Or more than $330,000 a work.

A few minutes after hearing this story, Richard Meier, the great international architect appeared on the terrace, camera hanging by a strap around his neck. He’d just come from walking the pathways under "The Gates." I asked how he liked it. He started at 72nd Street and walked down to 59th, and was exhilarated. He said it was brilliant architecture. He couldn’t get over how wonderful it was. He also said it was nothing until you walked around under "The Gates."

The Curry/Kemble terrace
A few minutes later, JH and I left the luncheon and did just that. NO picture can convey the experience because so much happens to your head as you walk along the pathways. What you see ahead of you looks so different when you turn around and look at it from behind. Then the winds and the breezes have their way, when they do; and always unexpectedly. There are so many Gates that soon you realize that it has taken over your aesthetic and your experience of being in the Park. They are much taller than the photos reveal. And yet they are not overwhelming.

After just a few steps into the Park you’re overtaken
by their presence. There is something amusing about it. The way you feel when you know someone’s putting you on but you’re enjoying it. It’s an allusion to wit but you know the Christos are way ahead of you. They’ve figured out something that you may never grasp beyond the feeling that you’re enjoying yourself while all around are thousands of others enjoying themselves too; all part and partipant in this great metropolitan art project.

Children understand it naturally but its brilliance is that adults soon after understand it too. They say 200,000 will visit the Park and experience "The Gates" in the next two weeks. I’d quintuple that. I’d say a million.

We walked up to the Bethesda Fountain and then I took the road west to the 72nd Street and Central Park West to make my Saturday Zabars stop. The Christos lead you every inch of the way with their astonishing creation. As I was departing, thousands and thousands more were entering, dumfounded, curious, excited. When it is over and everything has come down, people will then ponder the power of this amazing installation for a long time afterwards.

Taking the bus up Central Park West, I was thinking about the Christos. They’d been trying to get this off the ground since 1979. Several years ago I was introduced to them by Linda Silverman, the art dealer, who was helping them lobby for its installation. It seemed obvious in the “good idea” department but later when I talked to some Central Park Conservancy people about it, the response was not encouraging. It was a “No Go.” I was told that it would hurt the Park which the Conservancy had gone to great effort to refurbish and maintain. I wasn’t so doubtful but I couldn’t argue with the Big Guns. In the end, we can see, it was Michael Bloomberg, now the mayor, who “got it” and saw its value to the City.

The Christos experience is an example of the power of the imagination, and an example of the rewards for the efforts of dedication and Belief In Yourself. There’s information in there somewhere, for all of us.
Last Thursday, we went over to Naeem Khan's fall collection in the Bryant Park tents. Naeem launched his collection in 2003 as an evening/luxe collection. For three generations, Naeem's family designed for the royal families of India and Europe but also Couture houses in Paris. It is that influence that shaped Khan's expertise in beading and embroideries.
Yasmin Aga Khan and Deborah Norville with a friend
Hilary Dick, Courtney Moss, and Mia Matheson
Padma Lakshmi and Kithe Brewster with a friend
Martina Borgomanero and Fabian Basabe
Nicole Limbocker
Felicia Taylor and Amy Hoadley
Cece Cord
Colin Cowie
Michele Herbert and Becca Thrash
Grace Hightower and Cynthia Lufkin

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Mrs. Khan
Marcia Mishaan and friend
Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos and Ulrica Lanaro
Jamee Gregory
Susan Shin
Melva Bucksbaum and Sharon Bush
Lauren Bush and Christine Schott
Mira Nair
Francine LeFrak
Fern Mallis
Richard Ziegelasch and friends
L. to r.: Denise Wohl; Mallory Kean; Under the tents at Bryant Park.

On to the show ...

February 14, 2005, Volume V, Number 28
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch/


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/