An 18-karat golden toilet titled America isn’t just any old gilded bathroom fixture, it’s artist Maurizio Cattelan’s latest ready-made object installed in a bathroom at the Guggenheim. Guests to the museum are invited to enjoy what Cattelan refers to as “1% art for the 99%” just as they would any other amenity in the museum. The toilet is fully functioning and installed in the fifth floor of the building, just waiting to be used. It is the first piece the artist has exhibited since his 2011 retrospective at the museum and it’s as simple as it is subversive.
By now, the phrase “enfant terrible” seems like a hackneyed moniker applied to each new generation of artists that upsets the traditions and perceived rules that have come before them. Yet it’s hard to think of a title more apropos for Cattelan, an artist who defies labels while consistently seeking out new ways to provoke, cause unease, and create with an elusive sense of the uncanny. Cattelan uses objects and imagery that trigger a gut-reaction in his viewers. Those who are able to look past the initial shock or gross-out factor will discover the beauty and tongue-in-cheek irony of the work just beneath the surface.
With his latest piece, Cattelan proves himself to be the Jerry Seinfeld of art, at once a master at the height of his craft and at the same time capable of seeing the hilarity and the poignancy in our everyday acts and objects. The team at Motherboard, our sister site, actually went to 'watch the throne' yesterday:
In an interview with the art institution, Cattelan suggests that how people end up engaging with the work is all “part of the game” and “will be a test of the piece.” Never one to be pinned down, he adds, “I’m not the one who has the right to say [what it’s about],” that role is left up to the audience. The Guggenheim writes in a press release that, “Cattelan’s toilet offers a wink to the excesses of the art market, but also evokes the American dream of opportunity for all, its utility ultimately reminding us of the inescapable physical realities of our shared humanity.”
Maurizio Cattelan’s America is at the Guggenheim Museum for the foreseeable future.