In the frame

The Guggenheim's Nancy Spector told Trump to flush off

Installation view: Maurizio Cattelan, America, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 15 September 2016–15 September 2017 Photo: Kristopher McKay

Sometimes, life hands you a situation that is so perfect, you have to stand back and admire it for a moment. This is one of those times. The Washington Post revealed that the White House asked last year to borrow Van Gogh’s Landscape With Snow (1888) from the Guggenheim’s permanent collection, to hang in the president’s private quarters. Nancy Spector, the museum’s chief curator, politely declined. But she offered Donald and Melania an alternative: Maurizio Cattelan’s interactive work America, which had recently come off public view at the Guggenheim, and was available for a long-term loan. “It is a solid, 18k gold toilet that was installed in one of our public restrooms for all to use in a wonderful act of generosity,” Spector wrote in an email that has made her an art world hero. “The work beautifully channels the history of 20th-century avant-garde art by referencing Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal of 1917.” While Trump is known for his gilded tastes, it does not appear that he took the Guggenheim up on its offer. And when asked about the work’s meaning and the loan, Cattelan answered the Post in his usual enigmatic style: “What’s the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense.”