Museums Exhibits

Guggenheim Museum to display fully functional gold toilet

A rendering for Maurizio Cattelan: “America"

A rendering for Maurizio Cattelan: “America"  (Courtesy the artist © Maurizio Cattelan)

A porcelain throne is about to get the royal treatment at one of New York City's most popular museums.

On May 4, the Guggenheim Museum will install a fully functional, 18-karat solid gold toilet by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. The famed sculptor even came out of self-imposed retirement to create the gilded potty.

But unlike many works of art, you can literally crap all over this one. The toilet will be hooked up to the plumbing in one of the museum’s public bathroom stalls so patrons can actually mark their territory.

“You can lock the door and have your experience, whether that be just looking at the toilet or using it,” Guggenheim publicist Molly Stewart told the New York Daily News.

Stewart said she believes the work, titled “Maurizio Cattelan: America,” will be the first time a usable toilet has been on display at the Guggenheim.

Cattelan, who stopped working in 2011, said it’s not his job to tell people what the work really means but alluded to the idea of economic inequality as the inspiration for “America” in an interview with the New York Times.

“There’s the risk that people will think of it as a joke, maybe, but I don’t see it as a joke,” said Cattelan. “I was born in a condition where I was — how do you say? — forced to think about that. It’s not my job to tell people what a work means. But I think people might see meaning in this piece.”

The museum, however, has been more forward in its presentation of the piece explaining that the work “makes available to the public an extravagant luxury product seemingly intended for the 1 percent.”

"Cattelan’s toilet offers awink to the excesses of the art market, but also evokes the American dream of opportunity for all, itsutility ultimately reminding us of the inescapable physical realities of our shared humanity," states a Guggenheim press release.

The gilded toilet will replace one of the museum’s Kohler toilets in a unisex bathroom. Museum officials are expecting large crowds so the piece will have its own full-time security guard to monitor guest usage and “check in” occasionally to make sure the valuable toilet is not vandalized.

Cattelan, who lives in Milan, is known for his satirical sculptures that incorporate elements of surrealism with historical figures.