NEWS
15/09/2019 15:47 BST

Artist Behind Golden Toilet Stolen From Blenheim Palace 'Wishes Theft Was A Prank'

'Who’s so stupid to steal a toilet?'

SIPA USA/PA Images
Maurizio Cattelan arrives at the 2018 LACMA Art + Film Gala held at LACMA in Los Angeles, CA on Saturday, ?November 3, 2018. (Photo By Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA)

The Italian artist behind the solid gold toilet stolen from Blenheim Palace on Saturday has denied orchestrating its theft as a prank. 

The 18-carat working loo was wrenched from a wood-panelled room at the palace in the early hours of the morning, causing serious damage to the surroundings. 

Maurizio Cattelan, who created the sculpture – named America – has a history of mischievous stunts.

He denied having any role in the theft of the toilet however, telling the New York Times: “I wish it was a prank.”

He said: “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.”

Cattelan, 58, is understood to have attended a reception party at the 18th century Oxfordshire estate on Friday, marking his first UK solo exhibition in two decades.

The sculpture was the centrepiece of his new show, which had opened just a day earlier.

Thames Valley Police believe a gang of thieves using at least two vehicles were responsible for the theft and a 66-year-old man arrested on Saturday remains in police custody.

Detective Inspector Jess Milne said on Sunday: “We are following a number of lines of inquiry and there will continue to be a police presence in and around the area of Blenheim Palace while our investigations continue.

“We are making every effort to locate the offenders and the toilet that was stolen.”

Leon Neal via Getty Images
WOODSTOCK, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: "America", a fully-working solid gold toilet, created by artist Maurizio Cattelan, is seen at Blenheim Palace on September 12, 2019 in Woodstock, England. The Italian artist is known as the prankster of the art world. His most notable piece being "America" a solid gold usable toilet which had art lovers queuing to use when it was shown at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

 

Some sceptics have been slow to accept the theft at face value, with the memory of artist Banksy shredding his famous Girl With a Balloon painting last year still fresh in the mind of the art world.

Onlookers at a Sotheby’s auction were stunned after the painting started to be cut with a shredder built-in to its frame, just after it had sold for more than £1m – a stunt which is said to have only increased the value of the piece.

In Amsterdam in 1996, Cattelan previously stole the whole show of another artist at a nearby gallery and tried to pass off the exhibition as his own work.

Despite police being called, the artist was allowed to continue his display for several days.

He said at the time the theft was a “survival tactic” after being given only two weeks to produce work for the exhibition, saying: “I took the path of least resistance. It was the quickest and easiest thing to do”, in a statement to ArtNews.

Previous reports have estimated the value of the toilet to be around £1million, however Dominic Hare, the palace’s chief executive, said it had been valued at around £4.8m ($6m in US dollars). 

The sculpture hit the headlines last year after it was offered to US president Donald Trump by the chief curator of the Guggenheim in New York, its former home.

The golden toilet had proved popular at the Fifth Avenue museum, where it had been described by critics as a satirical take on the excesses of wealth. 

In reference to the piece, Cattelan has previously said: “Whatever you eat, a two-hundred-dollar lunch or a two-dollar hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise”.