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18-karat gold toilet stolen from U.K. art exhibit

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    A 18-karat toilet, titled “America,” by Maurizio Cattelan in the restroom of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2016. Thieves have stolen the solid gold toilet from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The toilet, the work of Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan, had been installed only two days earlier at Blenheim Palace, west of London, after previously being on show at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The golden go is gone.

A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled “America” by its creator Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early today from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.

The toilet was part of a larger exhibit featuring Cattelan’s work that began on Thursday.

The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered.

Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet was plumbed to the building so the theft “caused significant damage and flooding.” He said the police believe a “group of offenders” using at least two vehicles was behind the theft.

“We hope against hope that we can recover this precious work of art,” said Dominic Hare, the chief executive of Blenheim Palace. “It is deeply ironic that a work of art portraying the American Dream and the idea of an elite object made available to all should be almost instantly snatched away and hidden from view.”

The toilet was installed in September 2016 at the Guggenheim in New York City, where it was an instant Instagram splash.

Nancy Spector, the Guggenheim’s artistic director and chief curator, wrote on the museum’s website in 2017 that “more than 100,000 people have waited patiently in line for the opportunity to commune with art and with nature.”

The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but Spector described it as “millions of dollars’ worth of gold.”

The Manhattan museum declined to comment today.

Randy Kennedy of The New York Times offered this review: “As a formal matter, I’ll say that the sculpture really looks its best when in use, sparkling so much it’s almost too bright to look at, especially during the flush, which may be a new postmodern sublime.”

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