If you have ever wanted to use a toilet cast in 18-karat gold, now is your chance.
Starting on Friday, September 16, Maurizio Cattelan’s America opens at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. One of the public toilets in the museum will be replaced by a fully-functional gold replica. The super luxury product serves as social commentary on today’s America by allowing the public to participate and giving them a very private, individual experience with the artwork. Cattelan is also taking aim at the art market and its extravagance as well as the American Dream (if your personal American Dream is to sit on a solid gold toilet). It’s a signifier of wealth beyond what is comprehensible: Extreme luxury is coupled with a utilitarian bath product.
The toilet references Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) but with a new twist. Rather than provoking the way art is made and its meaning, Catelan assigns a new function to the toilet as an object of opulence and financial speculation. Additionally, he puts the toilet back in the realm of function, acting as an “artistic transgression.” The piece also references Piero Manzoni’s Artist’s Shit (1961) in which Manzoni allegedly canned his own excrement and sold each container at a price equal to its weight in gold. A comment on the value of labor and celebrity in the art market.
For more on the piece and Cattelan’s cheeky sense of humor, see this interview on the Guggenheim website.