When New York artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude unveiled their latest - very orange - work in Central Park over the weekend, they realized a 26-year artistic dream. But they also helped the city showcase its revitalization efforts.
Winding through 23 miles of the refurbished park, "The Gates" project involves more than 7,500 temporary structures from which luminous orange fabric hangs. Already, people are walking under the gates, which stand 16 feet tall and use more than a million feet of ripstop nylon.
City officials are touting the massive undertaking as a sign that New York has recovered from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They hope to impress not only the tens of thousands of tourists from the United States and abroad who are coming to see "The Gates," but also members of the Olympic site-selection committee who will visit during the installation.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a supporter of public art, championed the $20 million work, which was paid for entirely by the artists. He expects "The Gates" to boost the local economy by an estimated $80 million during a typically slow month and to be the source of much discussion. "That's really what innovative, provocative art is supposed to do - provoke debate, spark our imagination, help us redefine the spaces that we live in," he told reporters on Friday.
The influence of the largest art installation in the city's history is visible around Manhattan, from orange scarves to restaurants serving dishes with saffron sauce. (Saffron is what Christo and Jeanne-Claude prefer to call the color, which they chose for its aesthetic appeal.) People's language, too, reflects a festive mood.
"It feels like it's celebratory, and there've been so many things [lately] that have not been," says Diane Sunshine, making her way to Central Park from Manhattan's Upper East Side on Saturday.