Golden toilet stolen from English palace valued at £4.8m

Art piece has been described by critics as a pointed satire against the excesses of wealth

An 18-carat solid gold toilet stolen from Blenheim Palace in England has been valued at £4.8 million (€5.3 million), the palace’s chief executive has said. Photograph: Tom Lindboe/Blenheim Art Foundation/PA Wire.

An 18-carat solid gold toilet stolen from Blenheim Palace in England has been valued at £4.8 million (€5.3 million), the palace’s chief executive has said. Photograph: Tom Lindboe/Blenheim Art Foundation/PA Wire.

 

An 18-carat solid gold toilet stolen from Blenheim Palace in England has been valued at £4.8 million (€5.3 million), the palace’s chief executive has said.

The fully functioning loo, named America and installed for an art exhibition at Sir Winston Churchill’s birthplace, was taken in the early hours of Saturday by a gang of thieves, Thames Valley Police said.

The theft of the tpilet from a wood-panelled room at the 18th-century Oxfordshire estate caused significant flood damage as it had been plumbed in for visitors to use.

Reports had said it was worth an estimated £1 million, but Blenheim Palace chief executive Dominic Hare said the artwork, by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, is valued at about (£4.8 million).

“We have a very sophisticated security operation and we have not had an incident like this in living memory,” he said.

“The events of the last 24 hours mean we may have reason to reconsider some of our systems. There is always a risk when you display valuable art to the public, but it is worth that risk, even now, it was still worth that risk.”

Mr Hare said he believed Cattelan attended a reception party marking the exhibition launch on Friday night, adding: “I understand he is very shaken and shocked.”

Arrested

A 66-year-old man has been arrested over the incident and the palace was closed to the public on Saturday.

The sculpture hit the headlines last year after it was offered to US president Donald Trump by the chief curator of the Guggenheim museum in New York, its former home.

It was installed at the country home of the aristocratic Marlborough family as part of Cattelan’s exhibition, which began on Thursday.

The theft comes after the Duke of Marlborough’s half-brother, Edward Spencer-Churchill, said last month the artwork would not be “the easiest thing to nick”.

Mr Spencer-Churchill told the Times: “Firstly, it’s plumbed in, and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate.

“So no, I don’t plan to be guarding it.”

Insp Richard Nicholls from Thames Valley Police said: “A group of offenders broke into the palace and stole a high value toilet made out of gold that was on display.

“We believe they used at least two vehicles during the offence and left the scene at around 4.50am.

“The artwork has not been recovered at this time, but there is a thorough investigation being carried out.”

Satire

The golden toilet had proved popular at the Guggenheim and has been described by critics as a pointed satire against the excesses of wealth.

Cattelan has previously said: “Whatever you eat, a $200 lunch or a $2 hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise”, and has described his work as “1 per cent art for the 99 per cent”.

More than 100,000 people made use of its “participatory nature” at the Fifth Avenue museum between 2016 and 2017 during its time in New York.

It gained renewed attention last year when the White House requested to borrow a Vincent van Gogh painting for Mr Trump and his wife Melania’s private living area, the Washington Post reported.

Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector declined the request but, perhaps with Mr Trump’s penchant for all things gold in mind, offered the toilet instead.

Mr Hare urged anyone with any information to contact police.

“We are saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no-one was hurt,” he said. - PA