The case of the golden toilet: 4 men charged in theft of a golden toilet called ‘America’
4 men have been arrested and charged with burglary in connection to the 2019 theft of ‘America,’ a solid gold toilet worth nearly $6 million
Four men were charged Monday for the 2019 theft of an 18-carat gold toilet worth $5.95 million, per The Associated Press.
England’s Crown Prosecution Service announced on Nov. 6 that James Sheen, 39, Michael Jones, 38, Fred Doe, 35, and Bora Guccuk, 39, have been charged with counts ranging from burglary to conspiracy to transfer criminal property. This is the first time charges have been filed in connection to the theft of the golden toilet.
What is the history of the golden toilet?
The golden toilet, titled “America,” was an artwork by Italian contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan. It joined the ranks of several iconic toilet-themed artworks, such as Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain.”
“America” was designed for New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 2016 and was installed in one of the museum’s bathrooms, where The Guardian reported it “worked like a charm.” In September 2019, the piece was loaned to Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and installed in what had been his own bathroom, per Artnet.
The golden toilet disappeared from Blenheim Palace on Sept. 14, 2019. Because the artwork was a fully functioning toilet and had been plumbed into the building, its removal caused severe flooding, per CNN.
CNN reported that a 66-year-old man had been arrested shortly after the theft, but he was never officially charged in connection to the crime. According to the BBC, several others have been arrested and released in connection to the theft over the years, although this is the first time anyone has been officially charged.
The CPS announcement did not reveal any more details about the theft or the case against the four men. The defendants will appear at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Nov. 28.
Has the golden toilet been found?
The golden toilet itself has not been recovered, and police have long speculated that the sculpture has been destroyed in order to sell the gold.
“Will we ever see that toilet again? Personally I wonder if it’s in the shape of a toilet to be perfectly honest,” Thames Valley police and crime commissioner Matthew Barber told the BBC in 2021. “If you have that large amount of gold I think it seems likely that someone has already managed to dispose of it one way or another.”
Cattelan, the artist behind the golden toilet, has not yet commented on the charges brought against the four men. However, he did release a statement shortly after the theft making light of the situation, saying he felt like he was in a heist movie.
“Dear thieves, please, if you are reading this, let me know how much you like the piece and how it feels to pee on gold,” Cattelan said in the statement, per CNN.
The four men have not publicly responded to Cattelan’s inquiry.