A remarkable and slightly bizarre theft has been announced in Britain. An 18-carat gold toilet valued at £1 million has been stolen from the world-famous Blenheim Palace. The lavatory was part of a controversial art exhibition at the Palace. Police have made an arrest in connection with the theft, but the treasure has not been recovered.
Blenheim Palace is the ancestral home of the famous Churchill family and is in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England. The Dukes of Marlborough have lived in the palace since the early 18 th century. It is named after the first Duke’s victory over the French at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.
The Palace is the birthplace of Britain’s wartime leader, Winston Churchill in 1874.
Tens of thousands of people visit the Palace and the surrounding park, every year.
The magnificent Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England ( Leonid Andronov / Adobe Stock)
A Toilet Made of Gold
The stolen loo is made out of 18-carat gold toilet and is worth £1 million pounds or US$ 1.25 million, but some believe it may be worth much more. The work was conceived by the well-known Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and it is controversially titled ‘America’. The Daily Mirror reports that the toilet was made ‘‘in 2016 to represent America’s wealth and excess’’.
The golden lavatory only went on display at the Palace two days ago. It was part of an exhibition of Cattelan’s work entitled ‘’Victory is Not an Option,” and is the Italian’s first solo exhibition in Britain. Among the works that are on display are the ‘‘model of a schoolboy version of Adolf Hitler on his knees praying and a realistic model of Pope John Paul II being hit by a meteorite’’ reports the Daily Mail . The toilet was intended to be on public display until the 27 th of October.
The toilet was created for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, reports the Daily Mail. The art installation was at the center of some controversy last year when the Guggenheim offered it to President Donald Trump. He had asked to borrow one of Van Gogh’s most famous works from the Museum, but they only offered him the golden lavatory, which did not apparently please one of the world’s most powerful men.
What is remarkable about the lavatory is that it is fully functional. The Daily Mail reports that visitors to Blenheim Palace “were able to use the million-pound toilet and were allocated a strict three-minute time slot’’. People could only use the convenience for three minutes, to meet the demand from visitors. The art installation had proven a real hit after it went on display.
Early Morning Burglary
The theft occurred in the early hours of the morning. Police was called to the scene at 5 a.m. Detective Inspector Jess Milne of the Thames Valley Police told the Daily Mirror that ‘‘We believe a group of offenders used at least two vehicles during the offense’’. The lavatory was forcefully removed, and this has led to some flooding. No one was injured during the theft.
The item has not been recovered and the Thames Valley Police have promised a thorough investigation of the incident. A 66-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the theft of the golden loo. The police have increased their presence in Blenheim Palace in response to the break-in and theft of the artwork and have urged the public to help them in their enquiries.
Exhibition will Continue
Dominic Hare CEO of Blenheim Palace told CNN that ‘”We are saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no-one was hurt’’. The Palace was closed for a few hours, but the Park remained open. CNN quotes Hare as saying that ‘‘it will be business as usual from tomorrow, so visitors can continue to come and experience all we have to offer” None of the other works by the Italian artist were stolen and will remain on public display.
Remarkably, there were no special measures taken to guard the gold artwork. The Duke of Marlborough’s half-brother and founder Blenheim Art Foundation Edward Spencer-Churchill had previously predicted that the lavatory is ‘‘not going to be the easiest thing to nick’’ according to the Daily Mirror . However, the thieves have proved him wrong. Police may be in a rush against time to find the golden lavatory. The item may be melted down for its gold, or else the artwork may be sold on the black market.
By Ed Whelan