Finally, four men have been charged in connection with the theft of an 18k gold toilet valued at £4.8 million ($5.9 million) from Blenheim Palace in September 2019. The toilet, part of an art installation by Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan, was on display as part of an exhibition at the palace. The men charged include James Sheen, 39, accused of burglary, conspiracy to transfer criminal property, and transferring criminal property; Michael Jones, 38, charged with burglary; and Fred Doe, 35, and Bora Guccuk, 39, accused of conspiracy to transfer criminal property.
The fully functioning 18-karat gold toilet was stolen during an overnight raid, causing flooding and damage to the historic palace. The accused men will appear in court on 28 November for the start of the proceedings. The theft occurred after the toilet had been installed for just two days. Maurizio Cattelan had initially hoped it was a prank, commenting, “Who’s so stupid to steal a toilet?” Blenheim Palace’s chief executive, Dominic Hare, wished the theft would immortalise the artwork. The toilet was initially installed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2016, where it gained widespread attention.
Maurizio Cattelan: The Provocateur of Contemporary Art
Maurizio Cattelan, the renowned Italian artist, has made an indelible mark on the world of contemporary art with his provocative and often controversial works. Born in Padua, Italy, in 1960, Cattelan emerged as a prominent figure in the art scene during the 1990s, challenging conventions and redefining the boundaries of artistic expression.
Known for his satirical and surreal creations, Cattelan’s art reflects a sharp wit and a keen sense of irony. His works often tackle themes of mortality, identity, and the absurdities of modern life. He masterfully blends humor and profundity, forcing viewers to confront uncomfortable truths while eliciting laughter.
Cattelan gained international recognition with his audacious and subversive sculptures. One of his most iconic pieces, “Him” (2001), features a small, kneeling Adolf Hitler in prayer. The sculpture confronts viewers with the banality of evil, questioning the nature of human depravity and power.
In 2011, Cattelan announced his retirement from art, a move met with widespread skepticism. However, he returned in 2016 with a major retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, showcasing his diverse body of work. The exhibition included his infamous installation “America” (2016), a fully functional 18-karat gold toilet, inviting visitors to ponder the value of art and wealth.
Cattelan’s art often blurs the lines between reality and fiction, challenging conventional perceptions of truth. His thought-provoking installations continue to spark conversations and debate in the art world and beyond.
Beyond his artistic achievements, Cattelan is also known for his mischievous and enigmatic persona. He maintains a mystique that adds to the allure of his creations, keeping audiences intrigued and captivated.
In a world where art is a powerful medium for social commentary and introspection, Maurizio Cattelan stands as a trailblazer, fearlessly pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. His work continues to inspire, provoke, and captivate, making him a true icon of contemporary art.
Photo: Maurizio Cattelan, at Blenheim Palace Credit: Tom Lindboe, courtesy Blenheim Art Foundation