This intriguing story actually has its roots way back in 1979. Two rather controversial artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude want to put on the ultimate art show in New York, no gallery required, they want to use Central Park as their canvas. The idea was to create a huge display known simply as The Gates.  Filmmaker Albert Maysles followed the intrepid pair as they try to sell their idea to both officials and community groups. Not surprisingly the powers that be said ‘No Thank you”.

25 years later the climate had changed, many urban communities had explored and supported the idea of community based art exhibitions on a grand scale, better still they had reaped the benefits of sponsoring these efforts.

In February 2005 for 16 days The Gates came to fruition in Central Park, 7,503 saffron-colored gates and fabric panels adorned the landscape. This is art on a grand scale. But this is art that requires a huge amount of co-ordination and co-operation.

HBO have done a great job of chronicling this quarter century quest. There were an abundance of supporters and detractors, “it will be an eye sore”, “it disrupts public access”, “it will be a great attraction”.

Christo and  Jeanne-Claude found their savior in Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after years of battling suddenly they found a city official who backed the project enthusiastically. The cost to the city was $0, the artists themselves would sponsor the project, it was only $26 million!

As  Jeanne-Claude explains “the amount of steel used building The Gates is 75% of the the amount of steel used to build the Eiffel Tower”.

This is a very curious documentary, and one that reveals the many different emotions of those involved in the project, and those affected by it. The Gates was the closing night film of the 2007 Tribeca International Film Festival.

HBO is premiering The Gates on Tuesday February 26 at 10pm ET/PT. You can find more information on The Gates web site.

Simon Barrett

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