This afternoon I took a stroll through Central Park to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude's new art project, The Gates. They've taken twenty-some miles of paths throughout the Park and put up these bright gates with folds of orange cloth hanging down, thousands of them standing sentinel for the next two weeks.
It was striking to be there. There were a lot of people in the park, more than I would expect for a cold unexceptional day in February, and people were walking about as aimlessly as one can in Manhattan. They were taking photos in seemingly random directions, trying to capture the curve of a path or a billowing gate or the effect of walking through a canopy of orange. It was wonderful to see these staid New Yorkers climbing up the muddy hillsides to find a better vantage point and clicking photos as relentlessly as the tourists. We were easy-going and generous with eye contact. One woman remarked that she would love to have one of these gates for her garden.
I read that they chose the orange color to capture the light and highlight the different trails and boulevards through the park. But it struck me that it is the same color as traffic cones and municipal signs, the color of civic government. To see this art project, 25 years in the making, and to see such a cross-section of the city come out to welcome it on a blustery weekend - it was a civic holiday, a new one, that we had never observed before.