Visual Arts

Have a seat on the Guggenheim’s new artwork: an 18-karat gold toilet

The Guggenheim Museum is installing a fully functional, 18-karat, solid gold toilet designed by Italian sculptor Maurizio Cattelan.
The Guggenheim Museum is installing a fully functional, 18-karat, solid gold toilet designed by Italian sculptor Maurizio Cattelan. Maurizio Cattelan

There are two ways to admire this new work of art coming to the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

You can stand in front of it and ooh and aah.

Or you can stand in front of it, or sit on it, and use it.

The museum is installing a fully functional, 18-karat, solid-gold toilet designed by Italian sculptor Maurizio Cattelan.

Visitors can see – and use – the pretty potty in one of the museum’s public bathroom stalls.

“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.

The toilet, titled “Maurizio Cattelan: America,” will be hooked up in a unisex bathroom near one of the museum’s famous ramps.

Shy bladder people, take note: There will be a full-time guard stationed outside to keep the lines moving and make sure no one tries to chip off a piece of the toilet for a souvenir.

Stewart said this is likely the first time a toilet available for public use is on display at the museum.

Cattelan, 55, is known for his satirical, irreverent sculptures.

His 36-foot statue of a hand giving a middle finger stands in front of Milan’s stock exchange.

When art collector Peter Brant commissioned him to create a sculpture of his wife, model Stephanie Seymour, Cattelan made her into a nude bust mounted like a deer-head trophy.

Get it? Trophy wife.

Cattelan’s controversial sculpture of a kneeling Hitler, depicted as a child-like figure in a gray suit, will be auctioned at Christie’s on May 8 and is expected to bring $10 million to $15 million.

Cattelan, who left the art scene in 2011, came out of self-imposed retirement for the toilet project.

He, “told the world that he was finished, fatigued both creatively and by the velocity of the money-fueled art world,” writes The New York Times.

Cattelan told the Times that over the last couple of years he found that it was “even more of a torture not to work than to work.”

It will be up to the viewer – or user – to interpret his new work. Is it a statement on income inequality? A big ol’ dump on American excess?

“The new work makes available to the public an extravagant luxury product seemingly intended for the 1 percent,” the museum says in its official literature on the piece.

“Its participatory nature, in which viewers are invited to make use of the fixture individually and privately, allows for an experience of unprecedented intimacy with an artwork.”

The museum won’t say how much it cost to make the golden throne, but this much is known: You won’t find one like it at Home Depot.

“There’s the risk that people will think of it as a joke, maybe, but I don’t see it as a joke,” Cattelan told the Times.

“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.”

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