I don’t care for conceptual art and have no opinion of Christo, but I do live half a block from Central Park, making it hard for me to be altogether indifferent to “The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005,” seeing as how it’s visible from my doorstep. Bass Player came by my place on Saturday for a pre-ballet hang, so we figured we might as well stroll into the park and take a peek on the way to brunch. Ten minutes later we strolled back out again. The Gates hadn’t struck either one of us as beautiful or memorable, though it might simply have been that we weren’t in a receptive mood (I intend to try again next week).
Obviously others felt differently–the park was crowded and the atmosphere festive–and it occurred to me that I ought to be pleased that so many people had come to Central Park to experience a work of art, regardless of its quality. But the more I eavesdropped, the more clearly I realized that most of them were doing nothing of the kind: they’d simply come to see what everybody was talking about. Art had nothing to do with it. They might as well have been going to Six Flags to ride a new roller coaster.
After brunch we went down to Lincoln Center to see New York City Ballet. The bill of fare consisted of a fair-to-goodish performance of a masterpiece, George Balanchine’s Jewels, and the orchestra played badly. Yet the flaws didn’t matter. Maybe it was that Bass Player had never seen any Balanchine, and was self-evidently carried away. Or perhaps it had something to do with the strong emotions that had been discharged in me earlier in the week by the response to my piece
about Nancy LaMott. Whatever the reason, I was overwhelmed by the performance. It was as though some obscuring veil had been peeled away: I saw through a glass, but not darkly. As I watched the dancers, I couldn’t help but think of Christo’s spectacle, and wonder what definition of the word “art” could possibly encompass both phenomena. (The performance, by the way, was sold out.)
I returned home from the ballet, climbed into my loft, and immediately fell into a deep, dream-laden sleep. I woke up spontaneously an hour later, as fresh and happy as could be, and stayed that way for the rest of the weekend.