America‘ the golden toilet created by Maurizio Cattelan with 103 kilos of gold was one of the most touted pieces of the monographic exhibition dedicated to the artist at Blenheim Palace, historical residence and birthplace of Winston Churchill, that opened to the public on September 12th and will be up until October 27th. According to the Thames Valley Police, which investigates the theft, the heavy and controversial work of art was stolen during the night between Friday and Saturday around 5 am presumably by a group of people. A 66-year-old man was arrested in connection with the theft of the €1.5 m worth toilet.

The full-size functioning toilet, entirely fused in gold, was plumbed into a small wood-panelled bathroom  so that visitors could use it for a limited time of three minutes. Thus the thieves also caused damage to the room of the historic building where the work of the Italian conceptual artist was exhibited.

America was exhibited for the first time in 2016 in New York at the Guggenheim Museum and there as well it was made functional by connecting it to the Museum plumbing system. The eyebrow-raising first exhibition coincided with the election of Donald Trump as US President and when the White House asked a prized Vincent van Gogh work on loan, Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector satirically offered America to the president after explaining that the museum couldn’t loan the painting because it is prohibited from travel.

Thankfully Cattelan’s current show at Blenheim Palace, ‘Victory Is Not an Option,’ features many other recent works, including an installation of Union Jack flags that line a walkway and a 39-foot-tall replica of the arm of a Joan of Arc sculpture in Paris.

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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