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Interview with Christo and Jeanne-Claude

The gates in central park

HBO

What were your sources of inspiration for The Gates?

Jeanne-Claude

Central Park was the source of inspiration for The Gates Project, although The Gates is not the first project for New York City that we dreamt up.

Christo

In 1964, when we first arrived in New York City, I remember vividly seeing the skyline of Manhattan, and our first proposal of 1964 was to wrap two lower Manhattan buildings. We never got permission.

The stone wall all around Central Park does not allow the public to enter Central Park wherever they please. They have to find an entrance which is an interruption in that wall and that interruption is called a gate. So even the name 'The Gates' comes from Central Park.

HBO

What did you want to wrap them in?

Christo

With fabric, like a sculpture.

Jeanne-Claude

Fabric and rope.

HBO

What kind of response did you get when you proposed that to the city?

Christo

They told us these were privately owned buildings. They thought we were lunatics.

HBO

Why did you pick Central Park for The Gates?

Christo

Well, to begin with, Central Park is a man-made park. The entire park is surrounded with a stone wall. And entry into the park is through openings which are called 'gates.' They were not invented by us, but by Olmsted and Vaux who designed the park.

Our project started at the entrances of Central Park, and we designed rectangular portals to reflect how the park is situated in Manhattan: the rectangular shape of The Gates reflects the rectangular footprints of hundreds of city blocks around Central Park. And the fabric moving in all directions very capriciously, very whimsically reflects the serpentine walkway system of the park, and of course the shape of the leafless branches of the trees.

Some of the projects we've proposed over the years have been refused. But we never do other people's ideas; our ideas come out of our two hearts and our two heads.

Jeanne-Claude

And the stone wall all around Central Park does not allow the public to enter Central Park wherever they please. They have to find an entrance which is an interruption in that wall and that interruption is called a gate. And it is through those gates that Olmsted and Vaux wanted the public to enter Central Park. So even the name "The Gates" comes from Central Park.

HBO

Did your initial concept for The Gates change over time? Did the project turn out as you as you first envisioned it?

Christo

It's very important to understand that we never do the same thing twice; each of our projects is unique. We'll never do another Gates. Each project is a unique image. We do not know in advance how the work will look. I do preparatory drawings, but they are only projections of our vision. This is why for our large outdoor works we always do a life size test using a variety of possibilities. That way we see the color of the fabric changing with the snow with the wind with the rain with the sun, and to finalize how the project will look.

HBO

Why make art in the first place?

Jeanne-Claude

Well, we want to create works of art of joy and beauty. And like all true art, it has no other purpose than being a work of art. One should look at it and enjoy it. But in the end, it's just a piece of art.

We want to create works of art of joy and beauty. And like all true art, it has no other purpose than being a work of art. One should look at it and enjoy it. But in the end, it's just a piece of art.

HBO

The Gates took you over two decades to complete. Where do you get the patience?

Jeanne-Claude

When we're asked that question, we always answer that it is not a matter of patience, it is a matter of passion.

Christo

Of course it's not an easy ride. Some of the projects we've proposed over the years have been refused. But we never do other people's ideas; our ideas come out of our two hearts and our two heads. And if a project is refused, there are two possibilities. The project remains in our heart and we try very hard to do it, like twenty-five years to wrap the Reichstag in Berlin, or twenty-six years for The Gates. Or a project is refused and it is no longer in our heart and we abandon it. Why should we do it if it is no longer in our heart?

HBO

In the movie, we see people having very different reactions to The Gates.

Christo

Yes. And all interpretations are legitimate. In the end, this project is about people. Often the art in New York is related to the buildings, to grandiose things. This project is extremely intimate, very private. It suddenly puts all the human dimensions so close to everybody.

HBO

What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?

Jeanne-Claude

Well, we love the film and the more we see it the better we like it. But it is not a substitute for The Gates, it is about The Gates.

Christo

Nothing can replace The Gates. That unique experience cannot be repeated. The important thing in the film is it offers something that nobody knew about the early years, the hidden part of The Gates. I hope people will take the time to watch the film. It's very private film and also it's very public. And it's so different from other films about art.

The Gates

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