Interview with Christo and Jeanne-Claude
What were your sources of inspiration for The Gates?
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.
What did you want to wrap them in?
With fabric, like a sculpture.
What kind of response did you get when you proposed that to the city?
They told us these were privately owned buildings. They thought we were lunatics.
Why did you pick Central Park for The Gates?
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.
Did your initial concept for The Gates change over time? Did the project turn out as you as you first envisioned it?
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.
Why make art in the first place?
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.
The Gates took you over two decades to complete. Where do you get the patience?
When we're asked that question, we always answer that it is not a matter of patience, it is a matter of passion.
In the movie, we see people having very different reactions to The Gates.
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.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
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.