As Gold Peels Exposing Bronze Splotches, CBS 2 Learns Of Restoration Plan

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One of the greatest works of art in New York City is deteriorating, literally shedding its coat of gold.

However, CBS 2 has learned a plan to fix up the masterpiece may be on the horizon.

Tourists visiting the famous General Sherman statue at Grand Army Plaza, near the Plaza Hotel, were shocked at the condition of the masterpiece by revered sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

“It’s not looking very good, with all the peeling and black, when it should be gorgeous,” Maryl Hitchings told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

“Looks sort of decrepit, said Bill Hitchings.

The gold leaf is peeling, leaving huge splotches of dark bronze showing through from underneath.

“It’s a magnificent statue, has a lot to say and I think someone needs to restore it,” said tourist Barbra Hurley.

In fact, it was restored in 1990.  The gold leaf cost more than $115,000.

At the time of the 1990 restoration, a very rich, very prominent New Yorker wrote to the New York Times with what looked like a promise.

Richard J. Schwartz criticized the gold leaf as “garish and vulgar,” but also wrote “The foundation I head has agreed to provide the funds to maintain the monument in perpetuity.”

But that didn’t happen.

On the phone Thursday, Richard Schwartz told CBS 2’s Aiello “The [Sherman] restoration was never done properly and therefore there was nothing to maintain.”

Schwartz is an arts patron who has donated smaller works by Saint-Gaudens to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also chaired the New York State Council on the Arts for several years. Schwartz was one of several philanthropists who contributed generously to the 1990 Grand Army Plaza restoration.

“Hopefully the city or whoever is responsible will do something for it, make it better,” said tourist Doug Carty.

How long will General Sherman and “victory” look like losers?

CBS 2 has learned a fix-up plan is in the works and could be announced this spring.

Sherman, of course, was a general hero during the Civil War.

A source told CBS 2 the Central Park Conservancy wants a restoration plan that also looks at ways to “pigeon proof” the monument.

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