Solid gold toilet stolen from birthplace of Winston Churchill


A fully-working solid gold toilet, created by artist Maurizio Cattelan, is seen Sept. 12 at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, England. The toilet is valued at $6 million and has been stolen from Britain's Blenheim Palace. Tribune News Service

By Amy Walker

LONDON – A solid gold toilet valued at 4.8 million pounds ($6 million) has been stolen from Britain's Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of former British prime minister Winston Churchill.

The working toilet, titled "America," was on display as part of an exhibition by the Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan and was meant to be used by visitors.

"We can confirm 'America,' the art piece by Maurizio Cattelan has been stolen in the early hours of this morning. We are saddened by the extraordinary event, but also relieved that no one was hurt," the palace tweeted on Saturday.

The 18th-century estate said it was "a great shame" that the art work, a solid gold, fully functioning toilet, had been stolen only two days after the exhibition opened.

Officers were called to the scene in Oxfordshire, England in the early hours of the morning after receiving reports of a burglary at the palace, the Thames Valley Police said. A 66-year-old man has been arrested, they said.

"Due to the toilet being plumbed in to the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding," Jess Milne, the officer overseeing the investigation, said.

"We believe a group (of) offenders used at least two vehicles during the offense," Milne continued.

One month before the opening of the exhibition, Edward Spencer-Churchill, the half brother of the Duke of Marlborough, who owns the palace, said the toilet would not be "the easiest thing to nick," the Press Association reported, citing the Times newspaper.

"Firstly, it's plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate. So no, I don't plan to be guarding it," Spencer-Churchill was quoted further.

Palace chief executive Dominic Hare said the work is valued at about $6 million. Earlier reports put that number at around $1 million.

Hare told the PA news agency that the palace has "a very sophisticated security operation" and there had never before been such a breach.

Until 2017, the 18-carat golden toilet was on display at the Guggenheim in New York, where it was available "for all to use in the privacy of one of the Guggenheim's single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms," the Guggenheim wrote on its website.

The toilet, which is seen as a critique of excessive wealth and the obsession with luxury, has been connected to U.S. President Donald Trump, who the museum says has become "synonymous with golden toilets."

The Washington Post reported that a Guggenheim curator offered to loan the toilet to the White House in 2017 in lieu of the artwork requested by Trump, Vincent van Gogh's 1888 "Landscape With Snow." The toilet was never installed in the White House.

Blenheim Palace said there were still "many fascinating treasures in the Palace" as part of the exhibition, and that business would be back to usual on Sunday.

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