An exhibition by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City last year featured a replica of a Kohler toilet in solid gold.
The subject of Cattelan’s installation titled ‘America’ was an 18-carat solid gold replica of the museum’s existing Kohler toilets. Designed as a fully working toilet, the artist invited members of the public to use it, explaining that “it will be a test of the piece”.
The Kohler toilet was housed in the museum’s relatively small, unassuming bathroom on the fifth floor, with long queues formed each day by excited visitors eagerly looking forward to the opportunity to spend time alone with a work of art of unquestionable value, by a leading contemporary artist.
Cattelan said the golden Kohler replica toilet was in part, a nod to Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 artwork, Fountain, a urinal submitted for the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917. Though Duchamp suggested that an everyday item could be considered art if an artist presented it as one, his work was ultimately rejected.
However, unlike Duchamp’s installation, the solid gold replica Kohler toilet received unprecedented praise and admiration from visitors. It will be on permanent exhibition for the foreseeable future.