Christo will be more famous than Andy Warhol until next Sunday when
his Gates in Central Park come down. "This is so stupid," my 14-year-
old son Ben said as I took him through the Gates the night before
their saffron fabric was unfurled. "This is a stupid waste."
In fact, Christo makes contemporary landscape art in the tradition of
Cadillac Ranch, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, and Walter de
Maria's Lightening Rods and Earth Room. Christo quotes Bronowski in a
1979 Unmuzzled OX:
"Man is a singular creature. He has a set of gifts which make him
unique among the animals: so that, unlike them, he is not a figure in
the landscape--he is a shaper of the landscape. In body and mind he
is the explorer of nature, the ubiquitous animal, who did not find
but made his home on every continent."
New York was Christo's last continent. Unlike Smithson and, say,
Michael Heizer, Christo's landscape art is temporary and often urban.
He covered the Pont Neuf and the Reichstag and set up umbrellas in
California and Japan. My friend David Bourdon wrote his last book on
Christo, and Christo wrapped copies in brown paper, and David gave
them away to friends. I've never opened mine.
Right now today Christo is the rage. New York's just mad about
saffron. Everybody seems to have dug out a saffron scarf or jacket or
even sleeping bag. The saffron of The Gates oddly matches the color
of Jeanne-Claude's hair. Isaac Mizrahi seems to have bought a swath
from the dynamic couple: it's in his window in TriBeCa. Christo also
cited this Bronowski passage in OX:
"[Man's] imagination, his reason, his emotional subtlety and
toughness, make it possible for him not to accept the environment but
to change it. And that series of inventions, by which man from age to
age has remade his environment, is a different kind of evolution--not
biological, but cultural evolution. I call that brilliant sequence of
cultural peaks `The Ascent of Man.'"