It’s not uncommon for U.S. presidents to request to borrow exclusive works of art from museums in order to decorate the White House during their terms. Indeed, those requests are frequently filled by museum curators, allowing the sitting first family to add their personal style and flare to the classic presidential quarters and oval office.
As the Washington Post reports, the Donald Trump White House attempted to do just in 2017, seeking to borrow from the Guggenheim an 1888 painting by Vincent van Gogh, “Landscape With Snow,” to accent the private living quarters of Donald Trump and the first lady. Unfortunately for Donald and Melania Trump, Guggenheim chief curator Nancy Spector emailed them on September 15, 2017 to let them know that their desired van Gogh wasn’t available.
According to the email, which was obtained by the Washington Post, another piece was available at the Trumps’ disposal: a solid 18-karat gold toilet titled “America.”
The piece, which is fully-functioning, has been labeled by fans and critics alike as a jab at the existence and abuse of excessive wealth in the United States. It recently spent a year as an “interactive” exhibit on the fifth floor of the Guggenheim in New York city in the way only a toilet can be. And the solid gold “America” was open to the public to use, to the tune of over 100,000 museum visitors, a far cry from a van Gogh.
“More than one hundred thousand people waited patiently in line for the opportunity to commune with art and with nature.”
“America” the golden toilet, is the brainchild of artist Maurizio Cattelan, and was conceived before Donald Trump announced his White House bid and officially was unveiled in 2016. While the artist himself has declined to publicly define the precise meaning of his controversial piece, he has admitted in the past that it may have been influenced by Trump’s “place in American culture.” Cattelan went on to describe “America” as “as 1 percent art for the 99 percent.”
“Whatever you eat, a $200 lunch or a $2 hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise.”
Cattelan, whose pieces have sold for millions of dollars, has not confirmed the price of the gold used to create his gilded, tongue-in-cheek “America,” but it has been estimated that it was likely over $1 million. The golden toilet’s exhibition at the Guggenheim ended in late 2017, and according to Nancy Spector, the valuable and popular piece of art is currently available “should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House.”
While Spector, who has been at the Guggenheim for nearly three decades, has not spoken publicly about her inability to provide the White House and Donald and Melania Trump with their requested van Gogh, a spokeswoman has confirmed the authenticity of the email she wrote to the White House. An email that offered up the golden toilet “America” in lieu of the Trump’s artistic preference.
According to the email, the museum would even provide the White House with “instructions for [the toilet’s] installation and care” over the course of a “long-term loan” to the Trump family’s private living quarters.
While the White House has not publicly commented on the report that Donald Trump and his first family were offered a golden toilet in lieu of a van Gogh, it seems unlikely that the president would be willing to accept the Guggenheim’s generous offer of a very well used toilet. No matter how gold. That’s because, while Trump has a track record of favoring gold-plated potties and other bathroom fixtures, he also has a track record of having a germ-related phobia.
Artist Maurizio Cattelan has spoken out about the offer of his artwork for the president’s private use, something that he reportedly personally approved of. In a short phone call, he called the subject of Trump and his 18-karat “America” a “delicate” one.
“What’s the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense.”
For her part, Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector has been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump since his unexpected presidential election victory. The day after the 2016 presidential election, she reportedly took to social media to call on disappointed Trump critics, encouraging them to “take back our beloved country.”
“Don’t mourn, organize.”