More than a flash in a pan?: Gold toilet opens for business at Guggenheim

It is the ultimate opportunity to get up close and very personal with a valuable piece of art. A fully functional gold toilet goes on display at New York’s Guggenheim museum on Friday - and visitors are invited to spend a penny in something worth considerably more than that. The gleaming exhibit has been installed in a fourth-floor rest room for the private use of both men and women. A guard will be standing outside … presumably not just to make sure that no-one leaves the lid up.

Visitors will have a remarkably intimate and unusual encounter with this particular artwork

Museum curator Katherine Brinson

The installation, America, is the first piece that Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan has exhibited since his 2011 retrospective at the Guggenheim. The museum has declined to say how much the 18-carat work is worth but Katherine Brinson, curator of contemporary art at the museum, insists it has “many layers, many possible interpretative lenses that one can bring to it.” She added: “One can see the title as a critique but also as idealistic. After all this is a work about creating access and opportunity for all for a very wide public, even though it is this lavish luxury item.”

People will most likely wait in line…and individuals will use it one at a time. There will be a security guard outside who will explain to people what the piece is … And then people will use it as they would a bathroom

Curator Nancy Spector, who worked closely with Cattelan on the project