When Donald and Melania Trump thought they could spruce up their White House home away from home with a new piece of art, they probably weren't expecting one that would double as a bathroom necessity. Back in September, the president and first lady asked the Guggenheim Museum if they could borrow a Vincent van Gogh painting called "Landscape With Snow" to hang in their private living quarters. The museum was unable to fulfill the request, but instead offered Trump a gold toilet from the Guggenheim's collection.
Chief museum curator Nancy Spector apologized that the Guggenheim could not accommodate Trump's original request, but said, "This special offer may be of interest." According to The Washington Post, she wrote in an email to the White House:
I'm afraid that after ["Landscape in the Snow"]'s showing abroad, it will need to remain on permanent view in our Thannhauser Galleries for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, a marvelous work by the celebrated contemporary Italian artist, Maurizio Cattelan, is coming off view today after a year's installation at the Guggenheim, and he would like to offer it to the White House for a long-term loan.
The used toilet is 18-karat solid gold and doubles as both a work of art and a fully functioning waste receptacle. Considering the Trump team's popular slogan — "Make America Great Again" — the gold toilet has a fitting name: "America."
"America" is also reminiscent of another famous piece of provocative lavatory art: Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain," a sculpture that resembles a urinal. The 1917 piece disgusted prominent figures in the art world at the time. While the original has been lost, a replica is on display at the Tate in London.
Trump has not said yet whether he will take up the Guggenheim's offer. The Guggenheim in New York displayed the golden throne in one of the museum's public restrooms. As an interactive exhibit, guests were able to appreciate the contemporary artwork or, if nature called, also use it.
Spector — who is also Trump critic — described the brazen art installation as a provocative gesture. "The fact that it is very welcoming, inviting for anyone to use, gets to the heart of a lot of questions around exclusivity in the art world and in museums in particular," she told NPR in 2016 when the Guggenheim's gold toilet made its first intimate debut to the public. According to the museum, Cattelan, the toilet's artist, has described the luxury latrine as "1 percent art for the 99 percent." This isn't Cattelan's first bathroom-related connection. He also produces the magazine Toilet Paper in collaboration with Italian photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari.
After "America" was unveiled at the Guggenheim, more than 100,000 waited in line to experience the installation, Spector said on the museum blog. The Washington Post also reported that a security guard stood watch over the plumbing fixture, which is valued at more than $1 million, and museum staff used special wipes to clean it every 15 minutes.
Dominic Deluque of Hypebeast wrote after trying out the toilet himself: "Rampant income inequality continues to polarize the American economy, making overt displays of extravagance and wealth like a solid gold toilet pointedly charged." But reflecting on his experience later on: "Standing to flush the cold metal lever I took solace in humanity’s one great equalizer: everyone poops." The sentiment echoes a similar comment Cattelan made to the Guggenheim: "Whatever you eat — a two-hundred-dollar lunch or a two-dollar hot dog — the results are the same, toilet-wise."
Trump has previously bragged about the luxury plane he uses for taxpayer-funded trips. His 757 comes equipped with a full bedroom, shower, and 24-karat gold-plated bathroom fixtures. Trump and Melania also have an opulent Manhattan penthouse decorated with 24-karat gold furniture. Considering their penchant for gold, a flashy toilet wouldn't be out of the ordinary for them.