Yesterday afternoon the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a massive, three-ring circus of a memorial for the artist Jeanne-Claude, who died in November at the age of 74. Thousands of people turned up despite the rain, with top closies in the Met’s auditorium, second-order closies watching a live feed in the Temple of Dendur, and everyone else–the former buyer from the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego bookstore, for example, who years ago sold some special editions on behalf of Jeanne-Claude and Christo–taking in the proceedings on a big screen at the Boathouse in Central Park. The service lasted about an hour and a half, and featured a lineup of speakers that included Michael Bloomberg and former Met director Philippe de Montebello, plus critics Leo Steinberg, Calvin Tompkins, Paul Goldberger, and Annie Cohen-Solal.
Those who showed up at the Met steps to learn that their seats were in the Boathouse were taken to their destination via shuttle. As the bus wound through the rainy park, one slightly wet but distinguished-looking man groused that if he’d known this was how it was going to be, he and his wife might have stayed home and watched the webcast on their computer. But would staying home have come with a high-quality totebag, an open bar stocked with Glenlivet, and a staff of caterers running around with trays of hors d’oeuvres? Probably not!
Plus, at least he wasn’t asked to watch the memorial from a makeshift tent outside, which is where members of the press were apologetically directed upon arriving at the Boathouse. It wasn’t bad in there, actually: you could bring your drink in if you wanted, and more importantly, the tent was waterproof, so even if it was kind of cold, we didn’t get rained on. “We” here refers to The Observer and a charming Danish artist dressed in a purple pantsuit named Hanne Lauridsen who said she was writing something on the memorial for NowJournal.com. “They were always holding each other’s hands,” Ms. Laudidsen said, with warmth, of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. “They really looked like two lovers.” She had on a saffron necklace, which she’d worn because it reminded her of The Gates. The mayor, it turned out, had the same idea, except he went with a saffron tie.
“As we waited to unfurl the first Gates, the anticipation was palpable,” Mr. Bloomberg recalled during his remarks, speaking in a voice that made him sound like the narrator of a children’s book. “When the moment arrived, I had the honor of pulling the cord, and a brilliant saffron panel fell to the ground along with a giant cardboard [tube] that promptly whacked me on the head.”
He made a joke about how he’d been “struck” by the Gates, which was pretty good, but not as good as when the Crimson called up Skip Gates the day after the installation was taken down and asked him whether he’d gone to see the Gates or if he’d “skipped” them.
The rest of the program consisted of mainly eloquent tributes and a few funny stories, and the mood overall was not somber but bright and celebratory. The biggest laugh of the afternoon went to Mr. Tompkins, who talked about how Jeanne-Claude broke up with her husband so she could be with Christo by changing the locks in their apartment and announcing to him, as he tried to get inside, “Your key does not fit my lock!”
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