During a lazy summer—in which the only major cultural topic seemed to be why the NEA supports obscene art—a minor flap developed at the Grand Army Plaza, at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, in New York City. This involved the restoration, by a coalition of benefactors working with the City Arts Commission, of an equestrian statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman. It was erected in 1903 by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

What caused the dust-up—mostly played out in articles and letters in The New York Times—was the restoration of a layer of bright yellow gilding that lighted up the dingy statue like a New York City taxicab. Garish and vulgar, said some. No, said others, the new patina perfectly re-creates the effect that Saint-Gaudens was after: three layers of thin gilt against a background of green trees. Some insist that Saint-Gaudens had the color toned down before the installation of...


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