Maurizio Cattelan’s Golden Toilet work, titled “America”, was stolen from Blenheim Palace in an overnight heist, the palace revealed. The fully functioning toilet was made of 18-carat gold and was valued at £4.8m.
It was being shown at the Palace as part of a blockbuster show displaying iconic artworks by the famed Italian Conceptual artist, marking his first solo exhibition in the UK in twenty years, and featuring brand new works displayed for the first time.
The theft has been compared to ones frequently seen in movies, as it was carefully removed from a wood-panelled room at the 18th-century Oxfordshire estate, leaving significant flood damage behind as it was plumbed in for visitors to use.
The sculpture made headlines last year after it was offered to the US president Donald Trump by the chief curator of the Guggenheim museum in New York, where it was housed before. It was installed at the country home of the Marlborough family as part of Cattelan’s exhibition, which opened on Thursday. The toilet sat opposite the room where Winston Churchill was born and was free to use by visitors of the palace.
The golden toilet had proved to be so popular at the Guggenheim and was hailed by critics as a clear pointed satire against the “one-percent”, or the excesses of wealth. When the Duke of Marlborough’s half-brother, Edward Spencer-Churchill, was asked last month if the work will be protected, he said that it won’t and it anyways would not be “the easiest thing to nick”.
Maurizio Cattelan, despite his reputation of being a prankster in the art world, has insisted that he had nothing to do with the theft and refuted any suggestion that it was part of a larger stunt.
“I wish it was a prank. Who’s so stupid to steal a toilet?” he told the New York Times.
He added: “I want to be positive and think the robbery is a kind of Robin Hood-inspired action.”