Pop Culture

Parody of ‘The Gates’ earns man fame

“The Gates,” a public design project in New York’s Central Park by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, is giant, “saffron colored” and cost $20 million.

“The Somerville Gates,” by financial adviser Geoff Hargadon, is tiny, orange and cost $3.50.

It remains to be seen which will earn more lasting fame.

Hargadon — “Hargo,” as he’s now known — had to shut down his Web site featuring photos of “The Somerville Gates” after it received 5.5 million hits in one week. He’s been fielding media calls nonstop, and has been interviewed by reporters from Germany to Colombia.

The art department at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., said Friday that it wants one of the Somerville gates for its collection.

Hargadon, 50, lives in Somerville, a mostly working-class city just north of Boston. His creation consists of 13 miniature plastic gates spread across his loft, often tracing the path of his cat, Edie.

Michael Dwyer / AP
Geoff Hargadon talks with a reporter about his takeoff of Christo's $20 million "The Gates", Friday, Feb. 25, 2005, in Boston. More than four million people visited Hargadon's Web site after he posted photos of his 13 gates installation which he constructed in his Somerville, Mass., apartment from materials he bought at Home Depot for $3.50. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

He’s bewildered by the attention, though he’s clearly enjoying it.

“I’m just thankful that Paris Hilton didn’t have my phone number,” Hargadon quipped Friday, referring to a hacker’s recent Internet posting of Hilton’s cell phone directory. “That’s probably the only thing that would have made it worse.”

A call from Christo might also be uncomfortable, he added.

Hargadon said his project wasn’t intended to mock the Central Park installation, which Hargadon visited last week and enjoyed. His target is the monumental hype that’s surrounded “The Gates” — a collection of 7,500 saffron-colored pieces of fabric attached to 16-foot frames spread across 23 miles of Central Park footpaths.

One review, which called “The Gates” the first great public art creation of the 21st century, pushed Hargadon over the edge. Soon he was at The Home Depot buying materials for his own project.

Hargadon and his wife, Patricia LaValley, arranged the 3½-inch gates in different areas of their loft, near their cat, who was pictured staring indifferently at the gates in several photos. The “Feeding Gates,” for example, led to Edie’s bowl.

Sudden fame
Hargadon, whose previous art creation was a sculpture made from 3,000 ATM receipts, posted the photos online last week and notified a few friends for a laugh. It quickly spread on the Internet.

“The Somerville Gates” is not the only parody of the Central Park project — “The Crackers,” for example, is a line of 36 orange cheese and peanut butter crackers. But “Somerville” is the best known. Hargadon has received about 3,000 e-mails from fans and academics.

One, posted on his office door at UBS Financial Services Inc. in downtown Boston, reads: “At last an artist for our times who spans not only space-time continuums but the archaic human-animal divide and presents a postmodern perspective interrogated by the feline.”

The downloads came in such a storm that Hargadon calculated he was looking at a bill of $20,000 from his Internet service provider if the pace continued. So, like Christo’s gates, which are being dismantled starting Feb. 28, “The Somerville Gates” were removed from the Internet on Thursday, much to the dismay of Hargadon’s fans.

“I NEED to see, read them AGAIN ... to laugh ... to know things are OK in this wicked world,” one fan wrote.

Hargadon has no plans to make money from his gates. However, he does plans to auction one gate to benefit the Massachusetts College of Art.

“From what I can tell, it’s majorly important for him to keep it pure,” said friend and co-worker, Bart Smith.

And Hargadon’s work has Somerville’s blessings. The town declared Thursday, “Hargo Day.”

Mayor Joseph Curtatone said the day was established, in part, to “recognize the human capacity for appreciation, wonder, and awe that can be achieved when small plastic things are arranged in a certain order near or around a cat.”

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