It’s common practice for presidents to borrow priceless works of art to hang in the White House during their time there. But according to an article by The Washington Post, when the Trumps asked the Guggenheim Museum to loan them a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, the curator Nancy Spector politely declined. Why? There was another work that was available . . . one that Spector likely believed was far more appropriate for the President of the United States.
It’s called America, but this is no red-white-and-blue symbol of patriotism. Rather, it’s an 18-karat solid gold toilet, meant to be a critique of wealth and inequality in the United States. As the artist Maurizio Cattelan told The New Yorker in 2016, “Whatever you eat, a two-hundred-dollar lunch or a two-dollar hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise.” However, there’s no telling if Trump would get the joke–or simply be excited to take a dump on pure gold.
America spent much of 2016 and 2017 in a banal fifth-floor bathroom of the museum, where thousands turned up and stood hours in line for the privilege of sitting on the golden throne. But the time had come for the work to be removed when the show ended last fall, and Spector seems to have wanted it to go to someone who might truly appreciate it: Donald Trump.
She’s not alone. People have long associated America with Trump, who is well-known for his predilection for gold. When the toilet was first installed at the Guggenheim, Gawker wondered if perhaps Trump would like to buy it, calculating its worth at around $2 million. And one New Yorker who braved the lines to experience it for himself told Artsy, “When I was inside, I was thinking, why didn’t they make the sink also gold? It’s like a failed Trump attempt.”
The artist himself doesn’t say that Trump directly inspired the work, but in a Guggenheim blog post, he admits, “it was probably in the air.” Either way, America, and America, will forever be intertwined with Trump.
Co.Design has reached out to the Guggenheim for confirmation, and will update this post when we hear back.