When President and Melania Trump asked the Guggenheim in New York to borrow a painting to spruce up their living quarters, they were declined and offered a very different, and poignant, alternative. According to an email obtained and published by The Washington Post, rather than suggesting an artwork similar to the requested painting, Van Gogh’s Landscape With Snow, the curator of the museum instead suggested Maurizio Cattelan’s solid gold, fully functioning toilet titled America.
The artwork is aimed directly at satirising American wealth and capitalism and has been exhibited/used as a public toilet in the restrooms of the museum for the past year.
The email was sent by Nancy Spector, Guggenheim’s curator and an advocate for women’s rights, whose recent Instagram post featured a young woman on the Women’s March, wearing a pussy hat bearing a protest banner stating “No cuntry for old (racist, sexist, homophobic) men”, captioned “Hope for the Future”. The email sent to Donna Hayashi Smith, the White House Office of the Curator registrar/collections manager, explains apologetically why the original request cannot be met, before making the seemingly tongue-in-cheek offer.
“We are pleased that they are interested in demonstrating their support for the arts… I am sorry, however, to inform you that we are unable to participate in this loan,” it begins. “Fortuitously, a marvellous 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 work beautifully channels the history of 20th-century avant-garde art by referencing Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal of 1917.”
Maurizio Cattelan had previously described the artwork as “one-percent art for the ninety-nine percent”. He is also the co-creator of Toiletpaper magazine.