Reading Blake Gopnik's "Christo's Gates: A Little Creaky" [Style, Feb. 13] brought to mind the scene from "Amadeus" in which the Emperor Joseph II tells Mozart that his most recent opera has "too many notes." The emperor was probably right -- but he missed the point.
Mr. Gopnik may be right about Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "The Gates" project in New York's Central Park. It may, indeed, be "slight" and not the sort of "puzzling, complex, probing experience" that the critic expected. However, the gates are certainly not "dull" or just a "bit of decorative artifice." They have done precisely what Christo and Jeanne-Claude predicted they would: brought a sense of awe and joy to thousands of people from around the world.
I saw examples of these sentiments in the park all last weekend: a man dialing his friends on his cell phone and saying, "Dude, you've got to come see this"; a woman confessing that though she'd lived in New York for three years it was her first time in the park and that she'd be back every day; a spontaneous round of applause as Christo and Jeanne-Claude's car rolled slowly by during their final inspection on Saturday morning.
New Yorkers are not known for stopping in their tracks and letting out spontaneous laughter when confronted with something that overwhelms them. The gates have done that -- and more -- and we, as a city, are enriched by them.
The writer is a city historian and walking-tour guide in New York.
We are native New Yorkers and long-term residents of Washington.
While reading about and visiting the impressive Christo and Jeanne-Claude installation in Central Park, we recalled our visit to downtown Washington a week before Inauguration Day. The sight of chain-link fences and concrete barricades gating off every cultural and governmental institution on and around the Mall was quite a contrast to the jubilant display in New York's much-beloved public space.
New Yorkers have been given the gift of a joyous visual image, one that is much needed to nudge aside, if not away, the last horrific scene embedded in their minds. New Yorkers and visitors are looking up and smiling.
The Washington arts community and local and federal officials should be roused by this display of the power of art in public spaces.
Washington can do better than painted donkeys, elephants and pandas. As a community living with unprecedented levels of stress, we need it, and we deserve no less.
MARSHA and LES LEVINE