Golden Toilets

The world doesn’t need a golden toilet, so why make one?

As art of course.

Contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan announced back in April that he would make one to be displayed at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. And not just displayed but actually hooked up to plumbing and used by regular visitors—with a security guard standing watch, one presumes.

gold-toiletBut then in May, Cattelan admitted that the foundry in Italy had run into unexpected difficulties in the casting process. So the Guggenheim is still waiting. Luckily they have other toilets that are working fine.

But the mere fact that the art market can support such silliness as a golden toilet is to me a sign that there’s a lot off loose money floating around in these circles.

And my perspective as a student of long investment cycles means I’m alert to parallels in history.

In this case, I found one right here in Salem, at the exhibit Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age.

gold commodeThis lovely item is a portable commode. Made in Japan, it was brought to the Netherlands in the 17th century when that civilization was at its peak, and it made its way to the Chateaux de Versailles in the 18th century as the French grew ascendant.

The commode is made of wood covered in laquer, with gilded mounts and mother-of–pearl inlay. On the inside, it’s luxurious red velvet (a velvet throne!).

I have no idea what it cost originally, and the folks at the Guggenheim aren’t talking about what their golden toilet (funded by private money) is costing either. But the parallels are obvious.

Lastly, getting back to the silliness of today’s art market, which one of these golden toilets would you prefer to display in your house?

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