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The White House asked the Guggenheim for a Van Gogh; it offered a gold toilet instead

By Clayton Guse

The White House might be home to the most powerful person in the world, but it’s also home to some of the world’s best art. It’s common practice for presidential administrations to request works from museums and collectors across the country to be hung at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But when the Trump Administration asked the Guggenheim museum to borrow Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 painting Landscape with Snow, museum officials politely declined. 

Instead, they offered up a fully-functional 18-karat gold toilet that drew huge crowds at the museum last year. The latrine was a part of artist Maurizio Cattelan’s “America” exhibition at the museum and is what one would call an “interactive” exhibit. (It was set up in a fifth-floor bathroom, and visitors could actually poop in it!)

The Washington Post reports that the White House requested the Van Gogh painting last summer and the Guggenheim responded with the alternate piece of work on September 15, the same day that the exhibit closed. 

“We are sorry not to be able to accommodate your original request,” Guggenheim chief curator Nancy Spector reportedly said to the White House via email, “but remain hopeful that this special offer may be of interest.”

The Guggenheim’s denial of the administration’s request ought to bring a sigh of relief to Van Gogh fans in New York. Landscape with Snow is one of the artist’s most iconic paintings that’s on view in the city and one of just eight in the museum’s collection. 

It is worth noting that Spector’s offer of the golden toilet does seem appropriate, especially given the president’s affinity for gold-plated decor and details reported in the now-infamous Steele dossier

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