Tale of the Golden Toilet: How Art Predicted the Rise — and Fall — of Donald J. Trump

Amidst the avalanche of vulgar news coming out of Washington, did you happen to catch this gem?

On January 25th, The Washington Post reported that the chief curator of the Guggenheim, Nancy Spector, rebuffed a request from the White House to borrow a van Gogh painting to decorate Trump’s living quarters.

As an alternative, the Guggenheim offered up a fully-functional, 18K solid gold toilet, an installation by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who emerged from a five-year retirement in late 2016 for this installation, which he dubbed “America.” Reportedly, over 100,000 visitors to the Guggenheim have already relieved themselves using this toilet in a fifth-floor, gender-neutral restroom. The White House has declined to respond to the Guggenheim’s counter-offer.

While Cattelan agrees that he could hardly have known about the rise of Trump when he conceived of the piece, he said that “it was probably in the air.” And indeed it was, for Cattelan’s “America” is not the only recent work of art to feature a golden toilet. In fact, I was astonished when I first read about the Guggenheim’s toilet, for my favorite novel of last year, Tony Vigorito’s Love and Other Pranks — published in February of 2017 but completed a couple of years earlier — also features a golden toilet owned by… wait for it… a malignant narcissist.

Love and Other Pranks

Indeed, the novel itself is uncannily prescient in its vision of “malignant narcissism overthrown by an empowered femininity — and aided and abetted by an enlightened masculinity possessed of the courage to follow her lead.” In an interview about his book, Vigorito goes on to say, “I myself was surprised at its sudden thematic pertinence to contemporary American politics, but then again, this is a story that has been simmering in the shadows of the American psyche for most of our history.” Cattelan would surely agree: It was probably in the air.

Trump’s narcissism can hardly be doubted, but just in case anyone is uncertain of the depths of his sociopathy, consider a December 2017 study by The New York Times, which found that Trump told nearly six times as many lies (103) in just his first 10 months as president as Obama did (18) during his entire 8-year presidency. And the pace of Trump’s falsehoods has only quickened.

As for predicting Trump’s downfall, law professor and attorney Harry Litman’s recent article explains that “a consensus is beginning to emerge that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has the evidence to make a compelling case of obstruction of justice against President Trump…a leader who is a rogue, a constitutional menace, and yes, a criminal no less than Nixon”.

Maurizio Cattelan’s “America” and Vigorito’s novel are both artistic allegories of our historical moment. I won’t spoil the specifics of the ending of Love and Other Pranks, which is truly marvelous and functions as an antidote to the despair of our time, but suffice it to say that if Mueller doesn’t get him, the groundswell of empowered femininity represented by the #metoo movement is but the tip of an enormous cultural iceberg that will eventually come crashing down on our pussy-grabbing president, or perhaps flush him down a golden toilet back to the sewers from which he overflowed.

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