Image: Press image rendering for Maurizio Cattelan: America

Top-tier Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan came out of self-imposed retirement to bring you a unique chance to experience his newest sculpture in a personal and tactile manner, with your butt. Starting May 4th, the Guggenheim will have a fully functional replica of the museum’s standard Kohler toilet in solid 18-karat-gold that you can use.

When asked what the golden toilet means he said,“it’s not my job to tell people what a work means.” Since it’s the New York Times job, the article has some thoughts on Duchamp, Manzoni, Kafka, Occupy Wall Street and Donald Trump. Here’re even more thoughts on “the pungent symbol of the extreme price of art objects.” (I wouldn’t overthink it too much. We can interpret Koons’ shiny balloons and Hirst’s wet taxidermy all night, but when it comes to Cattelan’s work, this is definitely a giant middle finger outside of the Italian stock exchange and this is Peter Brant’s wife as a hunting trophy.)

Now, Donald Trump, that we know of, does not own a solid-gold toilet. He has alleged solid-gold sinks and gold-plated faucets, but no solid-gold toilet. Perhaps Trump would like to purchase this one. The Guggenheim has yet to answer Gawker’s inquiry if the toilet is for sale and for how much, but since Cattelan’s sculpture of a kneeling, child-sized Hitler is expected to bring between $10,000,000 and $15,000,000 at Christie’s auction next month, we’re looking at a lot.

Divorcing the art from the object, a replica could cost significantly less. And today, artist and writer Greg Allen brings you the calculations of just how many dollars worth of gold material is needed to make Maurizio Cattelan’s solid-gold toilet.

The rendering appears to show a standard Kohler toilet, but in solid gold. According to Amazon, that toilet, with a seat, weighs 62 pounds, around 28kg. At around $40,000/kg, that prices out to around a million dollars right now. [When Chris Burden tried to show a stack of 100 1-kg gold bars at Gagosian in LA in 2009, it cost around $3 million, $30k/kg. But their gold dealer Allen Stanford got arrested for multi-billion-dollar fraud before he could deliver. I don’t know how that ended up, but there are worse economic fates than being stuck holding gold for a few months at the beginning of 2009.]

Anyway, the thing is, porcelain and gold have different densities. Porcelain is 2.5g/cm^3, and gold is 19.29g/cm^3. So if the entire volume of porcelain in a porcelain toilet is swapped out with gold, that thing is not going to weigh 28kg, but nearly 8x more, say 210kg, which is like $8.2 million. The seat alone will weigh like 12kg, so be careful lifting it - and putting it down.

Now anyone knows you don’t need that much solid gold to make a solid toilet, though. A stainless steel toilet weighs around 20kg, and steel has a density of 7.82 g/cm^3, so an identically made gold toilet would require just 50kg of gold, around $2 million.

Materially speaking, that’s an expensive toilet even if it wasn’t an interactive sculpture by a blue-chip artist. And it only gets more expensive with your participation.