While the work of the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, the bad-boy of Relational Aesthetics, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, he’s usually good for a laugh, though in this day and age of gross income disparity, you could debate the humor of installing a solid gold toilet in one of the Guggenheim’s bathroom. But that is exactly the artist's plan for an installation at the Gugg in May.
As The New York Times reports, Cattelan’s piece will be a working replica of a crapper made in solid 18-karat-gold. People are expected to use it, just as they would the normal one it temporarily replaces. Titled America, the piece is supposedly inspired by Kafka’s novel Amerika, but its art-historical antecedents include Marcel Duchamp’s famed appropriated urinal and Piero Manzoni’s Merda d’Artista (Artist’s Shit), an edition of sealed cans containing the titular excrement. Of course, both of those works were created at a time when the the public could still be shocked, while the cooperation of a major institution in this case simply spotlights how today’s museums are willing to use irony to attract tourists.
Cattelan came out of a retirement announced in 2011 to create his loo, and the Guggenheim is anticipating long lines for it. There is some thought being given to posting a guard outside to keep things under control, which may prove unnerving to some people who are seriously trying to go.
Timing is everything, and as it turns out, America coincides with an election featuring a certain billionaire real estate developer who believes that blinged out bathroom fixtures are the epitome of good taste. Maybe Cattelan is mining comedy gold after all.