Maurizio Cattelan’s “America,” is a solid gold, fully functioning toilet that was installed in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2016. The museum’s curator has offered it to the Trumps for use in the White House. (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation)
I don’t know what the Trumps were thinking when they asked the Guggenheim to lend them a Van Gogh painting for their private quarters in the White House. Clearly, Van Gogh was the only artist they could name — very very big prices, hugely famous, huuuge — but Landscape with Snow, painted in 1888, was a strange choice.
It is a bleak portrait of mid-winter fields outside Arles with rotted vegetation and patches of melting snow. A man in a black hat with his dog is trudging along the T-zone of the painting. The late art critic Tom Lubbock suggested that such simple Van Gogh compositions represented “the division between matter and void.” I’m wondering if Melania saw her dank, lonely path, with the trees and light in the distance, as a trek to Mar-a-Lago.
Oh, just drop it with the fairy-dust art suppositions. There’s a goodly amount of golden yellow in the painting so you know perfectly well they wanted something to match the curtains.
Instead, the Trumps were offered another gold thing, Maurizio Cattelan’s America, a 2016 interactive artwork consisting of a solid gold toilet that Guggenheim visitors are actually using. Not usually what they mean by interactive but still.
Trump is a billionaire white piece of trash who lives in an apartment fretted with golden fire, has gold-plated seatbelts and bathroom fixtures on his private plane, and replaced Obama’s red drapes in the Oval Office with bold gold. (He also replaced the brown couches with cream ones. The man is not subtle.)
Cattelan’s toilet clearly referenced Marcel Duchamp’s urinal titled “Fountain” in a 1917 art exhibition. You see a urinal, Duchamp sees a fountain. You see a gold toilet, Cattelan sees America as it is right now, and he’s not wrong in this new Gilded Age.
As Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones explained, “Art is a luxury good. Its patrons and collectors have always been the 1%, not the 99%. Understandably, artists often snap.”
Guggenheim chief curator Nancy Spector, who has long made it clear that she detests Trump, quoted Cattelan in her blog on the Trump toilet offer: “Whatever you eat, a two-hundred-dollar lunch or a two-dollar hotdog, the results are the same, toilet-wise.”