Manhattan’s Shithole Museum

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 January 29, 2018|
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When Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, known for his quirky sense of humor, his bad taste and his sculpture of Pope John Paul II crushed by a meteor, conceived the idea of creating a fully functioning solid gold toilet and installing it in a public restroom, he called Nancy Spector, the curator at the Guggenheim Museum. Might she be interested in it?

A woman of exquisite artistic sensibility—she’d been with the Guggenheim for almost 30 years—Spector undoubtedly got the joke straight away. America was an 18-carat shithole! It would be an “interactive exhibit” deriving its meaning from having the Museum’s patrons do their business in it. The idea of shitting on America would surely cause shivers to run down the legs of New York’s intellectuals. To ensure that everybody “got it,” there’d be a large sign above the commode saying “America.”

Spector thought that would be a splendid idea, and her boss agreed.

I don’t know how much the Guggenheim paid for it, but the cost of the gold alone is estimated to have been in excess of $1 million. Neither do I know if it’s EPA-compliant, but there’s an easy way to find out. If it only requires one flush to dispose of the waste, then it’s likely not.

The toilet was installed on the fifth floor of the Guggenheim in 2016. Getting in on the scatological fun, the New York Post’s front page headline was “WE’RE NO. 1! (And No.2)”. “More than one hundred thousand people have waited patiently in line for the opportunity to commune with art and with nature,” snickered Spector in a subsequent Guggenheim blog post.

And so it happened that when President and Mrs. Trump, in accordance with tradition, requested the loan of a painting for the White House—a Van Gogh landscape—Spector thought she’d have a little joke of her own. We’re lending the Van Gogh to Spain, she replied. Then, having first run the idea by the artist, she offered to lend them the toilet instead.

Get the joke? No? Neither do I. And neither did the Washington Post, who asked Mr. Cattelan what was meant by the offer. He thought it might be better to ask the idiot whose idea it was first place. “It’s a very delicate subject,” he chuckled. As to what the exhibit meant, Cattelan replied that it had no meaning. “What’s the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense.”

And then he signed off with, “I have to go.” Can you hear the barely-suppressed giggle at the stupidity of Americans.

So that’s all there is to it? The Guggenheim paid millions of dollars for something that’s absurd and meaningless? The Washington Post asked its art critic, Philip Kennicott, to comment.

In Kennicott’s expert opinion…ah…well, it’s complicated. You see, when Spector offered Cattelan’s piece of shit to the Trumps in lieu of the Van Gogh, she transmogrified it into her own creation. No longer a joke on the Guggenheim, it’s now a joke on the President of the United States, and through him the American people. A “sick burn,” in Kennicott’s admiring words.,“Now the Guggenheim owns a new work, a Spector original, which will add if not luster at least levity to the museum’s collection,” he concludes.

The Guggenheim deals in pieces of levity? Remember when art was a vehicle whereby man might transcend his animal nature and connect with the Divine? This is what the Left has done to art: Instead of transforming shit into gold, art now transforms gold into shit.

The Guggenheim has had its share of humiliation lately. Last September the museum was forced to withdraw exhibits featuring films of live animals, reptiles and insects pitted against each other in a struggle to the death. When PETA called them “vile acts of cruelty masked as creativity,” it wasn’t exaggerating. The films are disgusting beyond words. In bowing to the public’s outcry, the Guggenheim whined that the exhibits were canceled due to threats of violence against its staff.

A year earlier, the Finns turned down flat a proposal to build a Guggenheim Helsinki museum with a combination of private and public monies. Expressing his disappointment, Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation in New York, said he’d believed the museum could substantially raise Helsinki’s cultural profile. What breathtaking arrogance!

Armstrong further blamed the populist Finns party for vetoing a proposal that would have had Norwegians contribute $53 million to the project. “I suppose that it was a reaction to a sense of engulfing internationalism, or a reaction against globalism,” he said. Maybe, but it couldn’t have helped that the proposed building was a contemporary eyesore—a “horizontal campus of ascending linked pavilions . . . based on a design concept of openness [and] flexibility.” (To me it resembles Obama’s proposed presidential library.) ]

In its snarky offer to the Trumps, the Guggenheim has disgraced itself beyond redemption. And by the way, is it any wonder that President Trump admires Scandanavians?

About the Author:

Esther Goldberg
Esther Goldberg is a lawyer living in Alexandra, Virginia.
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