A certain king of thieves has acquired a new throne. No, we haven’t traveled into a fantasy world where a thieves’ guild crowns its own king of their sector of the criminal underworld. This is the real world and in this real world, this thief acquired another type of throne. Though silver has been used in jewelry for more than 6,000 years, this piece of thievery involved its posterior superior; a solid 18-karat gold toilet.
Burglaries are unfortunately commonplace, with 2.5 million occurring every year. However, burglaries that involve golden toilets are few and far between. This is especially true when the golden toilet in question is a piece of art worth around $6 million. Only weeks prior, these were the words issued concerning its security.
“It’s not going to be the easiest thing to nick. 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 on guarding it,” said Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, brother of the Duke of Marlborough.
— Blenheim Palace (@BlenheimPalace) September 11, 2019
It doesn’t take a literary savant to see the foreshadowing in this scenario. The piece of art in question is titled America by an Italian artist named Maurizio Cattelan, a character oft referred to as the court jester of the art world. The installation is a piece of participatory art and — sparing the details of the participation thereof — it’s a fully functional toilet made of solid 18-karat gold. Having been on display in the Blenheim Palace in the UK (pictured top), the Guggenheim Museum loan was recently burgled. On September 14th, the Blenheim Palace issued a tweet:
Due to an unforeseen incident at the Palace we are closed until lunchtime, the Park will remain open.
Apologies for any inconvenience.
— Blenheim Palace (@BlenheimPalace) September 14, 2019
That unforeseen circumstance was, of course, the golden-toilet-art-installation being stolen from the Palace sometime in the night. While 35% of people wouldn’t have discovered an establishment were it not for the sign, Winston Churchill’s birthplace, complete with functional solid gold toilet, needed no advertising and could’ve benefited from better security.
“The piece of art that has been stolen is a high-value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace. 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,” said Jess Milne of the Thames Valley Police.
This was mid-September and the valuable piece has still not been recovered. However, a couple of arrests have been made in connection to the burglary but the toilet evades authorities still. The AC Cobra was famous for reaching 186 MPH on British roads in 1962, but the most famous (and sought after) vehicle right now is the VW Golf that CCTV caught the burglars loading the toilet into before escaping. Police believe there may be another vehicle involved yet, but it remains unconfirmed as the search continues.
North America is the largest market for art only second to Europe. This doesn’t bode well for the art piece, especially as more time passes with it unaccounted for. Of course, any sale of such an item as a work of art would be easy to detect due to its uniqueness. But, solid gold is solid gold and worth a great deal whether it’s toilet shaped or not. Thus, the insurance company for the Blenheim Palace issued a substantial reward attached to the toilet:
“The reward is up to 100,000 Pounds Sterling and terms are by approval of the insurance company, which includes the safe return leading to an arrest.”
“Who’s so stupid to steal a toilet? America was the 1% for the 99%, and I hope it still is. I want to be positive and think the robbery is a kind of Robin Hood-inspired action…”
— Blenheim Palace (@BlenheimPalace) September 16, 2019
The hunt continues and the creator Cattelan is in disbelief. Significant buzz has surrounded his piece ever since it was offered to the White House when Donald Trump was elected President in 2016. But, despite the satirical nature of the installation and the artistic voice of the creator, he’s saddened by its theft. Though, the attitude in his words might deceive you:
“When this morning I was informed about the robbery I thought it was a prank and it took me a while, after a few checks, to come to the conclusion that it was true and it wasn’t a surreal movie where instead of the jewels of the crown, the thieves went away with a bloody toilet. I always liked heist movies and finally, I’m in one of them. Dear thieves, please, if you are reading this, let me know how much you like the piece and how it feels to pee on gold,” Cattelan said in a statement after hearing his installation had truly been blagged.
The search is ongoing, but once the golden toilet is recovered, we’re certain its security will no longer be number two on their list.