Nothing quite says ‘America’ like a solid 18-carat gold toilet. Or so Maurizio Cattelan concluded when he made a fully-functioning solid gold copy of a Kohler toilet and titled it “America”.
It’s this very opulent toilet that has been offered by Guggenheim museum in New York when US President Donald Trump put his best foot forward to try and borrow a Vincent van Gogh for use in the president and First Lady’s living quarters.
According to The Washington Post, which first published the news on January 25, the Guggenheim had exhibited ‘America’, “which critics have described as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country, in a public restroom on the museum’s fifth floor for visitors to use”.
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 25, 2018
The Guggenheim’s chief curator to the White House, Nancy Spector, “was polite and firm” in her response. As the exhibit was over and the toilet was available “should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House,” Spector wrote in an email. on September 15, 2017.
Trump has not accepted the counteroffer despite the irony of his being offered an actual “shithole” in light of his recent derisive comments about “shithole countries”.
“Spector once called the sculpture ‘a cipher for the excesses of affluence’. It’s reportedly worth more than $1 million in gold alone, but it’s also been shit, pissed, and otherwise violated in by an army of regular old plebes,” reports Vice.
GQ took the opportunity to point out Trump’s love for all things excessive. “The really biting thing about this is that a gold-plated toilet is fully within the Trump aesthetic. It’s certainly brazen to offer a man who epitomises excess and money-grubbing an artwork that satirises extreme wealth, but frankly it would be surprising to learn that there are no gold toilets already at Mar-a-Lago.”
Cattelan, 57, who is known for work that is at once biting and tongue-in-cheek in its pointed metaphors of our daily realities had said that the toilet is actually a great leveller. “Whatever you eat, a two-hundred-dollar lunch or a two-dollar hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise,” he said.
According to The Post:
Cattelan has also suggested that he had in mind the wealth that permeates aspects of society, describing the golden toilet “as 1% art for the 99%.”
Cattelan’s “America” caused something of a sensation after the Guggenheim unveiled it in 2016, drawing more than a few headlines.
“WE’RE NO. 1! (And No. 2)” was the New York Post’s front-page offering, the huge lettering over a photograph of the toilet. The tabloid’s coverage included a reporter’s first-person account (“I rode the Guggenheim’s golden throne”) and a photograph of that reporter seated on the toilet (reading the New York Post, naturally).
“For viewers who crave a one-to-one relationship with art, this piece cannot be topped,” the New Yorker wrote in 2016. “Nothing Cattelan has done pre-retirement is more drop-dead beautiful, although his sculpture of Pope John Paul II lying on the floor in full papal regalia, felled by a jagged meteorite, comes close.”
When The Post got in touch with Cattelan to ask why he had chosen to offer the piece to the Trumps, he asked: “What’s the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense.”
“We are sorry not to be able to accommodate your original request,” the curator wrote in her letter to the White House, “but remain hopeful that this special offer may be of interest.”
What makes this whole episode even more amusing than it already is is a 2017 New York Times piece which describes how much Trump loves showing off the White House’s storied bathrooms.
“He has an odd affinity for showing off bathrooms, including one he renovated near the Oval Office,” the report reads. Trump, in fact, oversaw a record $1.75 million makeover for his new home shortly after moving in.
What the refurbished lavatories look like is not a topic that has been thoroughly explored, but considering how Trump reportedly consumes “a dozen Diet Cokes a day”, one can be sure he spends ample time in them each passing day of his absurd presidency.
As The Post once wrote last year:
“As the nation was preparing to celebrate its storied independence from the British crown, the president secured his place as history’s greatest jester.
Or America’s first toddler president. Take your pick.”
The internet, of course, had a field day:
The Guggenheim offering Trump a used gold toilet instead of a Van Gogh is the utmost example of trolling as an art form
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) January 26, 2018
Donald Trump’s day so far:
– Asked Guggenheim for Van Gogh
– They offered him gold toilet instead
– This is somehow a real story
– Don Trump Jr transcripts
– CIA Director cooperating w/ Mueller
– “FBI Secret Society” proven fake
– Trump’s presidency is fake
– It’s still only 3pm
— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) January 25, 2018
TROLL LEVEL: EXPERThttps://t.co/piJdRMoSji
— Publius XXI (@PubliusBenedict) January 25, 2018
I can’t imagine a better quote to have in an article about a museum offering to loan the Trumps a gold toilet: “What’s the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense.” https://t.co/hp0jCOLgX5
— Elise Foley (@elisefoley) January 25, 2018
Kudos to The Post for flushing this one out.