Four men were charged in the 2019 theft of artist Maurizio Cattelan’s 18-karat gold toilet artwork, reportedly valued at around £4.8 million (~$6 million), according to an announcement from the United Kingdom’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The alleged thieves swiped the installation in the early morning of September 14 from a wood-paneled bathroom at the Blenheim Art Foundation at Oxfordshire Palace, Winston Churchill’s birthplace. The artwork was plumbed into the wall and open for visitor use, and the removal caused flooding in the 18th-century building.
Two of the four suspects, all in their mid to late 30s and residing in the UK, were charged with counts of burglary, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. CPS leveled conspiracy to transfer criminal property charges against three of the suspects, with one also being charged with transferring criminal property. The men, identified as James Sheen, Michael Jones, Fred Doe, and Bora Guccuk, will appear in court on November 28. Seven people have been arrested in relation to the theft, but the remaining three have not been charged at this stage.
The 18-karat gold toilet, titled “America” (2016), was first displayed in a bathroom at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 2016. Hyperallergic contributor Carry Dune wrote that year that she waited two hours to sit on the plumbed-in receptacle, which carried a time limit of five minutes per user. Three versions of the 227-pound toilet exist.
The whereabouts of the edition stolen from Oxfordshire Palace, however, are still unknown. The installation may have been melted down, according to comments made by Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Barber to the BBC in 2021.