Maurizio Cattelan ’s infamous solid 18-carat gold sculpture of a toilet has been stolen from his exhibition at Blenheim Palace. Thames Valley Police said that a gang broke into the palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire at about 4:50 BST and stole the artwork.
The working toilet entitled America was installed inside the Palace, adjacent to Sir Winston Churchill’s birth room. The burglary caused “significant damage and flooding”. Intended as a fully functioning toilet, visitors were welcome to use it during their visit and experience a rare individual encounter with one of contemporary art’s most famous works but were to be given a three-minute time limit to avoid queues. The piece was created in 2016 and first exhibited at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where over 100,000 visitors queued to use it.
The work of art is valued at £6,000,000 and if not found is likely to be melted down
Det Insp Jess Milne, said: “The piece of art that has been stolen is a high-value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace.”We believe a group of offenders used at least two vehicles during the offence. “The artwork has not been recovered at this time but we are conducting a thorough investigation to find it and bring those responsible to justice.”
Blenheim Palace said it would remain shut for the rest of the day but would reopen on Sunday. In a statement, the palace’s chief executive, Dominic Hare, urged anyone with any information about the theft to contact police.
“Following the Thames Valley police statement we can confirm ‘America’, the art piece by Maurizio Cattelan, has been stolen in the early hours of this morning,” he said. “We are saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no one was hurt. We are very grateful to our staff and to Thames Valley Police for their rapid and brave reactions.
“We knew there was huge interest in the Maurizio Cattelan contemporary art exhibition, with many set to come and enjoy the installations. It’s, therefore, a great shame an item so precious has been taken, but we still have so many fascinating treasures in the palace and the remaining items of the exhibition to share.”
The exhibition opened on 12 September and runs until 27 October 2019. It is the Italian artist’s most significant display in the UK for twenty years, Victory is Not an Option responds to the martial and political history of the Palace, exploring timely themes of national identity, power and personality. The exhibition brings together some of the most influential artworks from Cattelan’s celebrated thirty-year career, many shown in the UK for the first time. It also debuts several new pieces made especially for Blenheim Palace including the titular installation Victory is Not an Option which opens the exhibition, a site-specific walkway of Union Jack flags leading to the Palace entrance.
A 66-yeard old man has been arrested but the toilet has not been found.