Donald Trump; Melania Trump (Getty/Saul Loeb)

Trumps request Van Gogh from Guggenheim, offered gold toilet instead

The museum said it couldn't accommodate the First Couple's request, but noted that a 18k gold toilet was available


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Rachel Leah
January 25, 2018 10:46PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump asked the Guggenheim Museum if they could borrow Vincent van Gogh's 1888 work "Landscape With Snow" to decorate some of their private living quarters in the White House. It's not particularly unusual for a president to make such a request of a museum. Still, the Guggenheim's chief curator demurred, offering a perhaps even more appropriate work of art for their household.

According to the Washington Post, Nancy Spector told the White House that Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan's  "America" was available instead. An interactive work more strikingly modern and bold than "Landscape With Snow," "America" is an 18-karat gold, fully functioning toilet that's been on display for at least a year in a public restroom and used by visitors on the fifth floor of the Guggenheim's New York location. Frankly, it's somewhat shocking the First Family didn't own four or five of these already.

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With the exhibit now over, the toilet was up for grabs "should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House" Spector said in an emailed response to the First Couple's request. She added that the artist "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." How nice of them.

Cattelan, who's been critical of Trump and is known for satirical art, hinted that the golden toilet is representative of excess wealth and income disparity, telling the Post that "America" is "1 percent art for the 99 percent". And Spector has also spoken out against Trump, writing the day after the election on social media,"This must be the first day of our revolution to take back our beloved country from hatred, racism and intolerance."

Yet, her email to the White House was perfectly polite and even included a photograph of the toilet, "for your reference." She added that "Fortuitously," "America" was now available after having been "installed in one of our public restrooms for all to use in a wonderful act of generosity." "We are sorry not to be able to accommodate your original request," Spector concluded, "but remain hopeful that this special offer may be of interest."

Oh well, at least the Trumps can always grab that famous "Renoir" off of Trump Force One to fill up wall space.


Rachel Leah

Rachel Leah is a culture writer for Salon. You can follow her on Twitter: @rachelkleah

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