Donald Trump's Gold Toilets
Serially bankrupt casino operator and former reality television figure Donald Trump became US President after losing the popular vote by 2.1%, 2,868,686 votes, but winning the electoral vote. So, with what the U.S. government's intelligence agencies concluded was assistance from the Russian government, Trump was President.
Trump, whose father was arrested after participating in a Ku Klux Klan march, and who has a long history of racial discrimination, decorates his palace-like homes in the style of dictators Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Gold (or at least gilding), marble, et excessus ad extremum.
Trump and his third wife, Slovenian nude model Melanija Knavs, who had Germanized her name to Melania Knauss before applying for permanent residency in the U.S., moved into the White House.
Earlier in 2016, the artist Maurizio Cattelan had returned from retirement with a special project at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. His America (2016) replaced a toilet in one of the museum's public restrooms with a fully functional toilet cast in solid 18-carat gold. This was his first project since his 2011 retrospective at the Guggenheim and planned retirement. It opened in late September, 2016, with plans to remain there indefinitely. From the museum's description of this piece:
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.
It is an interactive piece, visitors are invited to interact with it "individually and privately". Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector wrote that America "closes the transgressive loop" that Duchamp started with his groundbreaking readymade. As you can see from the blue Sani-Flush border on these pictures, I closed the loop by interacting fully.
You can't easily tell if the water in the bowl of a solid gold toilet contains urine. Not unless there is something seriously wrong with your urine.
The museum shipped two toilets to Italy. Cattelan used those to cast multiple pieces which he cast in 18-carat gold and welded together. Michael Zall, the Associate Director of Operations at the Guggenheim, oversaw its installation by a professional plumber. The seat is not only quite cold, it is enormously heavy. And it only raises a few inches, so there is no risk of angering the next person in line by leaving the seat up.
Then, in September 2017, a White House spokesperson wrote to the Guggenheim Museum, asking if the Trumps could borrow Landscape With Snow, a Vincent van Gogh painting, to decorate the Presidential residence.
Nancy Spector, the Guggenheim's chief curator, responded to Donna Hayashi Smith of the White House Office of the Curator. "I am sorry... to inform you that we are unable to participate in this loan since the painting is part of the museum's Thannhauser Collection, which is prohibited from travel except for the rarest of occasions,"
However, the America exhibit had just ended and the golden toilet was available "should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House." Cattelan, the artist, had reported that he "would like to offer it to the White House for a long-term loan. It is, of course, extremely valuable and somewhat fragile, but we would provide all the instructions for its installation and care."
The Trumps turned down the offer of the solid gold toilet. It wasn't gaudy enough for them.
Stories on this request and counter-offer,
and also describing Trump's dictator-like taste
in decoration, include these from:
The Washington Post The New York Times The Hill Time BBC News Forbes Newsweek, Dec 2017 Newsweek, Jan 2018