GATES | 5 Artists in 5 Minutes

Gates. They can be an entrance into a space, used to control who comes in or not, or they can be decorative. Today I want to share 5 gates in the history of art;  And you know what, today I’m going to go in chronological order, because I can! First up is the Lion Gate, which was the main entrance to the citadel of Mycenae in southern Greece. Erected during the 14th century BCE on the northwest side of the acropolis, it is named, as you might assume, after the relief sculpture of two lionesses above the entrance. The Lion Gate is the only surviving monumental sculpture of Mycenaean, and it was also the largest in prehistoric Aegean, a massive. 3.10 m (10 ft) wide and 2.95 m (10 ft) high at the threshold. The opening actually had a double door that pivoted. The Lions are carved in high relief in a triangle formation, with their front legs standing on a central pillar. Their heads were created separately, and are now missing. Lionesses were an emblem of the Mycenaean kings and a symbol of their power to both subjects and foreigners. (Makes sense to display your power to anyone entering your space) It also has been argued that the lionesses are a symbol of the goddess Hera, Queen of the Gods. Next up is the North gate of the Great Stupa at Sanchi of Madhya Pradesh, India. A Stupa is a mound-like or hemispherical structure that contains Buddhist relics, and used by Buddhists as a place of meditation. The Great Stupa at Sanchi is the oldest stone structure in India, commissioned in the 3rd century BCE. But, it wasn’t until the 1st century that these elaborately carved gateways, called toranas, were added. The gates are decorated with narrative sculptures, showing the scenes of Buddha’s life. Stories like the previous life of Buddha, as Vessantara, where he gave away all his possessions to those in need. He even gives away his children and wife before the god Indra acknowledges his selflessness and restores his family and possessions. These carvings served both as spiritual merit for the donor who funded the carving, but also as a way to teach illiterate followers the story and creed of Buddha. Tōdai-ji is a Buddhist temple complex in Nara, Japan. It houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Daibutsu. But let's talk about its gate! In particular I want to share Nandaimon, the Great South Gate, which was constructed at the end of the 12th century after the original gate was destroyed in a typhoon during the Heian period. It features two 28-foot-tall guardians that were built around the same time by Unkei, Kaikei and their workshop. Called an A-un pair, these guys are Agyō Niō and Ungyō Niō. One has an open mouth, the other is closed. (hence the “A” and “um”), which is said to represent life and death, the beginning and the end. They stand guard as a pair of protectors at either side of the entrance. Their fierce and threatening appearance wards off evil spirits and keep the temple grounds free of demons and thieves. Now the next gate I want to talk about is, unlike the previous three gates which you can actually walk through, this one is completely unfunctional. The Gates of Hell is a monumental sculptural work by French artist Auguste Rodin. It depicts a scene from Dante’s “The Inferno”. It’s 6 meters high, 4 meters wide, and 1 meter deep. The piece was commissioned by the  Directorate of Fine Arts in 1880, meant to be an entrance to a planned Decorative Arts Museum. The museum was never built, but Rodin would continue to work on this project, on and off for 37 years until his death in 1917. One of the most interesting and recognizable aspect of the gates are the figures. Theres 180 figures, which range from 15 centimeters high to more than 1 meter. But you may recognize a handful of them, as several figures throughout are made a larger studies and standalone pieces. You’re probably already familiar with The Thinker and The Three Shades, but did you know that The Kiss was also made for the doors but were later removed since they seemed to conflict with the other suffering figures? Finally, let’s round out the group with a contemporary piece, which is Christo & Jean Claude’s The Gates. The gates were a site-specific work of 7,503 vinyl “gates” along 23 miles of Central Park in New York City. Each gate had a sheet of deep saffron-colored nylon fabric, and was shown from February 12 to 27 in  2005. The Gates has mixed reactions, as some welcomed the bright colors against the winter landscape, but others didn’t like how it looked. It increased the number of visitors, which can be good or bad depending on who you are. Either way when it was taken down, the gates and bases were removed without a trace and the materials were industrially recycled. GATES | 5 Artists in 5 Minutes


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