Raising the bar for classy shade into the thermosphere, the Guggenheim Museum declined President and Melania Trump’s request to borrow a Van Gogh painting for their private residence in the White House but offered a substitute from the museum’s holdings: A used (and usable) 18-karat gold toilet.
The solid-gold commode, which previously sat in a fifth-floor public restroom, isn’t merely an example of piss-elegant design — it’s a jab at conspicuous consumption by artist Maurizio Cattelan. The piece’s title: “America.”
Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector demurred on the First Couple’s request for Van Gogh’s 1888 “Landscape With Snow” in an email, saying the toilet was available instead “should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House.” She did not mention Trump’s well-publicized fondness for gold-covered furnishings and fixtures.
Spector added that Catalan “would like to offer it to the White House for a long-term loan… It is, of course, extremely valuable and somewhat fragile, but we would provide all the instructions for its installation and care.”
She included a picture of the toilet “for your reference.”
The Guggenheim confirmed to the “Washington Post” that the email was sent Sept. 15 to Donna Hayashi Smith of the White House’s Office of the Curator. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The “Post” did get ahold of Cattelan, who referred the reporter back to the museum, saying “It’s a very delicate subject.” Asked to explain the meaning of his piece and the intent behind the offer, he replied: “What’s the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense.”
It’s common for presidents and first ladies to borrow works of art for the White House. The Obamas borrowed 45 works, ranging from paintings by Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns to sculpture by Degas, Native American scenes by George Catlin and contemporary pieces by the African-American painter Glenn Ligon. Jackie Kennedy was lent Cézannes and the Clintons borrowed paintings by de Kooning.