Finally, four men have appeared in court charged with the theft of an 18k gold toilet valued at £4.8 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.
Four men have appeared in court charged in connection with the theft of a £4.8m gold toilet from Blenheim Palace. James Sheen, 39, from Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, and Michael Jones, 38, from Oxford, are accused of burgling the 18-carat art installation in an overnight raid in the early hours of 14 September 2019. Sheen is also charged with transferring criminal property.
Sheen, 35-year-old Fred Doe from Ascot, Berkshire, and Bora Guccuk, 39, from west London, are also charged with one count of conspiracy to transfer criminal property. All four defendants were granted unconditional bail at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday and will next appear at Oxford Crown Court on 4 January.
The fully functioning toilet, titled America, was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and housed in the Oxfordshire country house where Sir Winston Churchill was born. America 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 visitors could use it while a member of security staff stood guard outside.
The museum also once offered it to US President Donald Trump – who installed golden curtains when he moved into the White House.
About the artist
Maurizio Cattelan, a prominent and provocative contemporary artist, challenges both art and institutions by freely incorporating elements from the real world into his works. His playful and irreverent use of materials, objects, and gestures in unconventional settings sparks commentary and engagement.
Internationally recognized since his debut with “La Nona Ora” in 1999, featuring a wax statue of Pope John Paul II struck by a meteorite in New York’s Kunsthalle Basel, Cattelan continues to make a mark. His public art intervention, “L.O.V.E.,” in Milan’s Piazza Affari since 2010, reclaimed a forgotten square, and his publication “TOILETPAPER,” co-created in 2010, gained attention. Notable exhibitions include the 2011 Venice Biennale and a suspended solo exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
In 2016, he replaced a museum restroom’s toilet with an 18-karat gold replica for a year. His retrospective, “Not Afraid of Love,” at the Monnaie de Paris and curatorial project “The Artist Is Present” at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai followed in 2018. In 2019, his exhibition “Victory is Not an Option” at Blenheim Palace featured the infamous stolen gold toilet. The same year, “Comedian,” a banana duct-taped to a gallery wall at Art Basel Miami Beach, stirred global debates about the nature and value of art.
In 2021, solo exhibitions at Fondazione Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan and “The Last Judgment” at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing showcased Cattelan’s work. In 2022, a retrospective at the Sea World Culture and Arts Center in Shenzhen, China, continues to honor the artist.