Reflections in a Golden Toilet

We’ve written in the past about unusual historical items that have been made of gold. There was a golden eagle throne made by that African guy, Emperor Bokassa. Then there was that 400-year-old small pocket-sized utensil that included both a toothpick and an ear wax spoon. (Sort of the Swiss Army Knife of its day.) There have also been gold toothpicks, gold teeth, gold hands, gold fingers, and even gold artificial eyes.

“America” – The Guggenheim’s gold toilet installation by Maurizio Cattelan. Photo: Kris McKay, via @Guggenheim on Instagram.

“America” – The Guggenheim’s gold toilet installation by Maurizio Cattelan. Photo: Kris McKay, via @Guggenheim on Instagram.

Well, all those items lose luster when placed alongside the new 18k gold toilet that was installed earlier this month in a regular old unisex public bathroom at in New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

What’s the big deal, you say? But let’s imagine that you need to do your business, you walk in and POW, you find that a solid gold toilet that is worth between $1.5 and $2.5 million is waiting for you. It could be enough to make you…better not say!

Why a Solid Gold Toilet?

Because the golden toilet has been installed in an art museum (and not in a racetrack, an airport or a Volvo dealership), you have probably already guessed that this toilet is not actually a toilet…it is ART. And if you guessed that, you are right.

Yes, the toilet is art. In this case, it is a piece of art created by an Italian sculptor named Maurizio Cattelan. What is the name of the artwork? He called it “America,” which could mean a lot of things, some of which are probably not very nice.

Apparently, Cattelan created “America” to help us challenge our natural assumptions about gold, wealth, beauty, value, and probably a lot of other stuff.

What Do People Think about a Golden Toilet?

“America” is attracting a lot of attention. Here are some comments that have been written about it over just the last few weeks:

  • Orlando Reade, writing for CNN Style, thinks it is probably a wry comment on politics. He points out that Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary, once predicted that after communism took over the world, every toilet in the world would be made of gold. So maybe Reade is right – you can pull a lot of political lessons out of a toilet.
  • Erica Schweigershausen, writing on, reports that the toilet has placed unusual demands on the members of the Guggenheim Museum’s maintenance staff. They have to clean it with special wipes every 15 minutes during the hours the Museum is open.
  • An anonymous reporter, writing on the Voice of America’s, quotes a statement from the Guggenheim Museum, which says the gold toilet is “a bold, irreverent work…ultimately reminding us of the inescapable physical realities of our shared humanity.” I guess that means we are all supposed to already own golden toilets. But I just looked, and I don’t.
  • Calvin Tomkins, writing in The New Yorker, parts the curtains and reports that the gold toilet in the bathroom is an exact replica of the ceramic toilet that used to be there. Since the gold johnnie is art, doesn’t imply that any toilet, gold or otherwise, could be making its own statement if we view it art? I’ll go look at my toilet and see what it is telling me.

But let me just say, I really don’t think America is a solid gold toilet, or any other kind of toilet, do you? Let’s just leave it there, and move on.

Do You Have Golden Treasures to Recycle?

Even if you don’t have a solid gold toilet, you might have some gold that we can recycle for you. Some old gold-filled or karat gold jewelry perhaps? Or maybe some old dental scrap or circuit boards? Whatever you have, we’re here to recycle it and issue you prompt payment. Don’t sit on it. Give us a call today at 800-426-2344.

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