Volume 74, Number 42 | February 23 - March 01, 2005

Villager photos by Bob Arihood

Putting the clamps on ‘The Gates’

Although “The Gates” have been a huge hit, photographers and artists are up in arms over a sweeping rule its creators, Jeanne-Claude and Christo, have been claiming they have a right to enforce to keep people from selling any images of it.

According to Robert Lederman, president of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics), on Feb. 17 a representative of Christo’s German publisher informed street artists, photographers and art vendors around Central Park they would be subject to arrest for selling any images of “The Gates.” Lederman said he got the phone number of this person, a Dr. Fils, and had a lengthy talk with him.

“Christo’s publisher claims a vast new degree of copyright and trademark protection,” Lederman said. “They claim they will prosecute anyone who sells their own original photos of ‘The Gates,’ who makes and sells a drawing of ‘The Gates’ or who even uses the words ‘The Gates’ without their permission. They claim to have copyrighted the words ‘The Gates.’ They also claim to have an agreement with the media that media sources may only use news photos of ‘The Gates’ for the period the installation is up — that after that the media will only be allowed to use ‘official’ photos of ‘The Gates.’ ”

On Feb. 20, Newsday reported Jeanne-Claude “lectured [a Newsday] photographer not to reproduce images of ‘The Gates’ for profit, as some hawkers in the park have done,” sternly warning that “pictures of the artwork are trademarked and can’t be sold.” Their official photographer then inadvertently stepped on the Newsday photographer’s foot. Jeanne-Claude later said she had felt “stormed.”

Suppose someone who wasn’t trying to photograph “The Gates” but couldn’t avoid it, then sold the photo? That was the dilemma Villager photographer Bob Arihood investigated as he photographed a boulder, statues of a mountain lion and musician Victor Herbert and other sights in Central Park last weekend, seemingly unable to find a single spot where the sprawling art project — with7,500 saffron flags on 23 miles of park paths — wasn’t in the frame. Arihood says he’s not sure yet — but he may sell the photos.

The New York Post recently reported that Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s lawyer said that while they feel they are within their rights to prohibit people from selling unauthorized images of “The Gates,” they won’t take legal action against anyone who does.

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