A New York museum has replaced one of its standard porcelain toilets with an upscale equivalent — an 18-carat, solid gold, toilet that is fully functional and will be open to the public to use.
The toilet is, of course, an artwork by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, titled America, and it will be unveiled at the Guggenheim Museum this week.
The extravagant piece is a social commentary on the disparities between and the “haves” and the “have-nots” of the world — which visitors are invited to reflect upon whilst they “make use of the fixture individually and privately”.
“Cattelan replaced the toilet in this restroom with a fully functional replica cast in 18-karat (sic) gold, making available to the public an extravagant luxury product seemingly intended for the one per cent,” the museum’s website reads.
“Its participatory nature, in which viewers are invited to make use of the fixture individually and privately, allows for an experience of unprecedented intimacy with a work of art.
“Cattelan’s toilet offers a wink to the excesses of the art market but also evokes the American dream of opportunity for all — its utility ultimately reminding us of the inescapable physical realities of our shared humanity.”
According to the New Yorker, after the piece was installed Cattelan quipped: “Whatever you eat, a two-hundred-dollar lunch or a two-dollar hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise.”
The artwork was originally scheduled to open to the public on May 4, but the museum ran into trouble casting the work, which is an exact replica of the toilet which was originally in the single-person, unisex restroom.
The date was pushed back indefinitely — but on Friday local time the work will officially be unveiled to the public.
The New Yorker reports that a guard will remain by the restroom, and the toilet will be cleaned every 15 minutes using special wipes.
Guggenheim 18-carat gold toilet Now I really think the art world is up its own …….you can fill in the rest! https://t.co/VKFChhcJhZ
— Claire Reika Wright (@Claireika) September 15, 2016
Cattelan’s work has been compared to Marcel Duchamp’s piece Fountain, a porcelain urinal which caused ripples in the art world when Duchamp submitted it for the annual exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917.
It was rejected, but is now regarded as one of the most iconic pieces of 20th century art.