The White House wasn't interested in a golden toilet when the Guggenheim Museum offered it as an alternative to a Vincent van Gogh painting for President Trump's living quarters, but it has proved irresistible elsewhere.
Not just to the 100,000 people who used the 18-karat "participatory" art exhibit while it was housed in a restroom at the New York City museum, but to Great Britain's Blenheim Palace, where former Prime Minister Winston Churchill was born; and most recently, to the thieves who stole it overnight from the famous country house.
A group of burglars using two vehicles broke into Blenheim Palace, built in the early 18th century, and left with the precious-metal fixture about 4:50 a.m., inspector Richard Nichols of the Cherwell and West Oxfordshire police told reporters in a news conference. A 66-year-old man has been arrested in the case, and officers plan to question people in the area as the investigation continues.
The commode came to Blenheim, the home of the 12th Duke of Marlborough, this year as part of an exhibit by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who had titled the piece "America."
A native of Padua, Cattelan has become known as the "court jester" of the art world, according to the Guggenheim, with previous works including a wax replica of Pope John Paul II struck down by a meteor, titled "The Ninth Hour," and a piece depicting the fairy-tale character Pinnochio lying face down in a tub of water, titled "Daddy Daddy."
"We knew there was huge interest in the Maurizio Cattelan contemporary art exhibition, with many set to come and enjoy the installations. It’s therefore a great shame an item so precious has been taken," Blenheim Palace said in a statement. "We are saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no one was hurt."
Cattelan proposed the golden toilet in 2015, and it arrived at the Guggenheim in September 2016, shortly before Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.
It was when the exhibit was slated to leave the Guggenheim that the artist suggested offering it to the White House, which had requested the van Gogh painting "Landscape With Snow," according to a Washington Post article citing correspondence between the two parties.
The piece had become associated with Trump because of both his frequent use of gold in properties he developed, officials said, and a satirical exhibit in Manhattan that let visitors check out framed copies of the president's tweetstorms and pose in a Trump wig with a fake golden toilet.
"Cattelan’s 'America,' like all his greatest work, is at once humorous and searing in its critique of our current realities," curator Nancy Spector wrote in a blog post. "Though crafted from millions of dollars’ worth of gold, the sculpture is actually a great leveler. As Cattelan has said, 'Whatever you eat, a $200 lunch or a $2 hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise.'”