What to Know
- President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were looking to borrow a Van Gogh for the White House and reached out to the Guggenheim
- The museum's chief curator wrote back in an email that the request couldn't be accommodated but that a gold toilet was available
- Unveiled at the Guggenheim in 2016, the fully functioning toilet called "America" was used by hundreds of visitors
The Guggenheim Museum offered President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump a used gold toilet after the couple requested a painting by Vincent Van Gogh for their living quarters at the White House, according to reports.
The Washington Post reports resident and Melania Trump inquired about Van Gogh’s “Landscape With Snow,” an 1888 work of a “black-hatted man and bowlegged dog trudging along the path” in a snowy France.
The offer made by the Guggenheim’s chief curator, Nancy Spector, was something quite different: a 2016 sculpture by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, specifically a fully functioning 17-karat gold toilet entitled “America” that had been used by hundreds of museum visitors, some of whom waited hours to use the stately latrine.
The Post reported Thursday that Spector sent the Trumps a "polite but firm" email in September explaining that the museum could not fulfill their request to borrow the Van Gogh. She said "Landscape With Snow" was "prohibited from travel expect for the rarest occasions" and was off to the Guggenheim’s museum in Spain for an exhibit.
The Guggenheim unveiled the estimated $1 million toilet inside a fourth-floor restroom at its New York museum in 2016. At the time, it said the exhibit “offers a wink to the excesses of the art market but also evokes the American dream of opportunity for all.” It's also been seen as a comment on exorbitant wealth in the country.
The toilet exhibit had ended by the time the Trumps made their request last summer, and Spector wrote Donna Hayashi Smith of the White House’s Office of the Curator that the gold loo was available “should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House,” according to the Post.
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Spector has not been shy about her politics online. She wrote on the Guggenheim blog that Trump’s term has been "marked by scandal and defined by the deliberate rollback of countless civil liberties, in addition to climate change denial that puts our planet in peril."
Presidents and first ladies have borrowed art in the past to decorate the White House; for example, the Obamas were lent works by abstract artists Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns, the Post reported.
The White House did not respond to inquiries from the Post and Spector was not available to comment on her offer, the paper said.
Cattelan resisted interpreting his gold toilet but told the Post that the meaning is something like: “What’s the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense.”