Authorities are reportedly on the brink of charging seven suspects in the September 2019 theft of Maurizio Cattelan’s America, a functional solid gold toilet sculpture installed at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, U.K. The piece, which weighs 55 pounds, is said to be worth $6 million.
Now, after four years of investigations, police have presented their evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, which will decide whether or not to press charges over the high-profile heist, which took place just before 5 a.m., flooding the wood-paneled bathroom at the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
“A number of individuals remain released under investigation in relation to this case,” Thames Valley Police told the Sun. “A file of evidence is with the CPS for a decision to be made on any charges.”
Made from 18-carat gold, the toilet is a 21st-century response to Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 Fountain, and a commentary on the excesses of the art market, the one percent, and American luxury. It was also a work of art that you could literally poop in—provided you booked an advanced time slot to use it at Blenheim.
America made its debut at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2016. The piece also made headlines when the museum’s then-chief curator, Nancy Spector, offered it to the White House in 2017, in lieu (pun intended) of Vincent Van Gogh’s Landscape With Snow (1888), a loan of which had been requested by White House curators on behalf of then-President Donald Trump.
The now-infamous toilet made its way to Blenheim Palace for the artist’s first solo show in the U.K., where Edward Spencer-Churchill, the founder of the Blenheim Art Foundation and brother of the 12th Duke of Marlborough, was not concerned about the possibility of theft.
“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,” he said.
Obviously, he was wrong.
In the immediate aftermath of the theft, police arrested two suspects, with three additional arrests the following month. The palace’s insurance company offered a £100,000 ($129,000) reward for tips leading to the toilet’s safe recovery, but there has been little news in the years since about efforts to recover the stolen sculpture. Authorities suspect that the work was melted down and sold for its value in gold.
Cattelan, for his part, expressed his hope that “the robbery is a kind of Robin Hood-inspired action.”
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