MAURIZIO CATTELAN’S "AMERICA": TEN LAYERS OF IRONY IN A GOLD TOILET

It’s quite a hoot that the Guggenheim Museum offered to lend the White House Maurizio Cattelan’s America – a functioning gold toilet – after turning down their request for a Van Gogh landscape.  There are ten layers of irony in this:

  • A toilet made of gold.
  • A gift of a toilet made of gold to a man who is reputed to have chairs made of gold.
  • A gift of gold that is intended as an insult to the President.
  • A functioning toilet made of gold that visitors to the Guggenheim are permitted to use.
  • A functioning toilet that Guggenheim guards protect closely and inspect regularly.
  • A reference to Duchamp’s readymade Fountain that is not a readymade at all.
  • A precious, commoditised version of Duchamp’s inherently worthless Fountain.
  • A reference to the once-shocking Fountain that is now so clichéd that it causes no offence whatever in the art world.
  • ” One can imagine creating reverse readymades from some of Duchamp‘s pure readymades, such as shoveling snow with In Advance of a Broken Arm, or like an Italian conceptual artist actually did, urinating in Fountain. Of course, the irony is that in urinating in Duchamp’s urinal, the artist created a reverse readymade by retuming it to the use for which it was originally manufactured.” Derridada: Duchamp as Readymade Deconstruction, Thomas Deane Tucker.
Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm

  • Playing at political radicalism without being radical at all. So old hat. So fake. Duchamp imagined a readymade in reverse, for example, using a Rembrandt as an ironing board. The only artists who took him up were the students of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1968, who confronted the police with old masters from the walls of the school.

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