The Gold Toilet: An Opportunity to Experience the Extravagant Luxury of the 1%

The Gold Toilet: An Opportunity to Experience the Extravagant Luxury of the 1%


When we speak of “gold toilet”, the first things that come to mind might be words like “extravagant” and “luxurious”. It is something most of us only read or hear about, but have never really seen it, let alone used it.

Amazingly, the very object--an ostentatious and gleaming gold toilet--has come out as an art piece now on display in a museum in New York.


A work of art titled “America” by Maurizio Cattelan was open for public viewing at the Guggenheim Museum in mid-September 2016. The artwork and the space around it was quite unique: a gold toilet in a single-unit restroom on the museum’s fifth-floor.

Back to our first question, what makes it more of a piece of art than just luxury?

Cattelan hopes to make available to the public an extravagant luxury product seemingly intended for the 1 percent, and also providing visitors with an extraordinary experience of unprecedented intimacy with a work of art. Cattelan’s toilet offers a wink to the excesses of the art market. Its title, “America”, also evokes the American dream and boundless opportunity—its utility ultimately reminding us of the inescapable physical realities of our shared humanity.

Everyone uses the toilet, no matter how rich or poor. It doesn’t matter how glorious the extravagant the toilet appears to be, a toilet is still just a toilet.

This writer “visited” this luxurious artwork at the Guggenheim Museum in person recently.

Comment: the seat was cold.


 The 18-karat solid gold toilet works as an extraordinary art piece. Please note that it is cast from gold, not plated gold on the surface of another metal.

The gold toilet, titled “America”, is the first piece that the Italian artist Maurizo Cattelan has exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum after five years of self-imposed exile from the art world.

Although it is an art piece, the exhibition is not a traditional gallery display. Museum visitors are encouraged to use the toilet as they would any other facility in the building. It is a real, fully-functional gold toilet.



Upon seeing this piece, people are inevitably reminded of another famous toilet-shaped piece of art -- Marcel Duchamp's 1917 iconic Fountain. Although the objects used in both displays are very similar – a urinal and a toilet -- the two pieces elicited completely different reactions from viewers.

When contemporary art was emerging, calling the upside-down porcelain urinal, “Fountain”, art was considered too controversial and confusing. Audiences initially rejected the piece, which sparked more public debate and thought on the topic. Now, at a time when anything can be done in the name of art and no longer considered strange, “America” puts art back into the real world, closing the distance between art and its audience, and makes them ponder the meaning of art while experience it first hand.


Translator: Yaqi ZhaoAssini