The Gates is extraordinarily beautiful. That's it, really. It's a work of great beauty and grandeur, and I feel fortunate to be able to experience it.
I've read that Christo originally wanted to install it in autumn, when the color would have blended with the fall foliage, but the city would only agree to February. I actually don't know if that's true, but the February date worked brilliantly. The gates stand out against the bare trees and white snow, and when the wind lifts the fabric, it softens the landscape as if they are leaves.
The color, contrary to what you may have read, is not biohazard orange, but a soft, golden orange, not quite an earth tone, but autumnal, a color found in nature.
Because the view changes as you walk, and with the changing light, and the time of day, and depending on what path you choose, it's almost performance art, and each person helps create it for themselves as they walk along.
Sometimes the gates are ribbons of color. Other times they are fences, or frames, or entranceways. Sometimes they form a forest or a thicket. Sometimes they direct your path, pulling you along. Sometimes they offer an array of directions and force you to choose. Sometimes you walk up a small rise and see orange in the distance - through trees, on a hill, beckoning you - showing you the possibilities ahead.
My favorite part (so far) is the northern end of the Park. Above 96th Street, there are fewer people, and vast expanses of space - ballfields covered in snow. There's an area above the reservoir where the gates are very sparse, you might think you've come to the end, then you pick up a little orange, walk over a ridge, and there they are again, circling fields of snow, beckoning you further on. At the northernmost end of the Park is the Harlem Meer, a small lake with waterfowl and fish, surrounded by a rock outcroppings and woods. There, the gates are absolutely breathtaking, circling and climbing and defining the rugged landscape.
Searching the internet for for public comment, I found people declaring The Gates would be ruined by vandalism within days. What nonsense. Naturally they are spotless. There is not a piece of litter in sight.
I spent two hours walking through it this morning, purposely alone and camera-less, then left the Park to refuel. (I'm posting this from a Starbucks near Columbia University. Loving my iPAQ!) Now I'll walk down 110th Street, where you can see the orange greeting you at the end of the street (a Park entrance), and spend another hour or two. Later this week I'm going back with Allan - and my camera.
Oh also, I saw Christo and Jeanne-Claude walking around, too. Kinda cool.