You had to believe in Tinkerbell if she was to survive.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big admirer of Jeanne-Claude and Christo. I met and talked with them some years ago about their projects. But that's not what hooked me. What hooked me (as someone whose own work has sometimes been described as miniaturist, as someone who was once struck by David Hockney's little essay on postcards) was their re-sizing of Earth, their imperial seizures of whole landscapes without -- this is important: without -- harming them.
But there is a Tinkerbell quality to their work. And god knows they have plenty of people clapping their hands and saying, "I believe..."
That's what I was thinking when I read Peter Schjeldahl's piece in the 2/28 New Yorker, "Gated":
An art critic was testily perambulating “The Gates,” in Central Park, with his wife and a friend from Texas on the first Sunday afternoon of its installation when he suddenly got a load of their thousands of fellow-walkers and registered the common mood—a sort of vast, blanketing, almost drowsy contentment. He couldn’t think of any other occasion on which he had witnessed so many New Yorkers moving slowly when they didn’t have to. Each person looked strangely, nakedly personal: not a New Yorker at all, or anything else in particular. The crowd’s many-voiced sound had an indoor intimacy, like the bright murmur in a theatre, during intermission, when the play is good and everybody knows that everybody knows it. The over-all social effect, which was somewhat like that of an electrical blackout or a major blizzard, minus the inconvenience, was weird and terrific. (You could give yourself a nice scare imagining “The Gates” magically removed, and leaving the people looking as they looked—a goofball “Night of the Living Dead.”) The voluble disaffection of the art critic, me, collapsed, to the relief of my companions. I had to admit the reason for it, which was that “The Gates” is a populist affront to the authority of art critics, and to accept being just another shuffling, jostling, helplessly chummy citizen.
Of course, “The Gates” is art, because what else would it be? Art used to mean paintings and statues. Now it means practically anything human-made that is unclassifiable otherwise. This loss of a commonsense definition is a big art-critical problem, but not in Central Park, not this week. What the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude have been doing for three and a half decades is self-evident. They propose a grandiose, entirely pointless alteration of a public place, then advance their plan in the face of a predictable public and bureaucratic resistance, which gradually comes to seem mean-spirited and foolish for want of a reasonable argument against them. They build a constituency of supporters, including collectors who help finance the project by buying Christo’s drawings and collages of it. What then occurs is like an annual festival—Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a high-school prom—without the parts about its being annual or a festival. It feels vaguely religious. The zealous installers and minders, identifiable on site by their uniforms and chatty pride, are like acolytes. As with any ritual—though “The Gates” can’t be a ritual, because it is performed just once—how people behave during the installation is what it is for and about. Then it’s gone, before it has a chance to become boring or, for that matter, interesting.