At the end of November 1874, Winston Churchill made his debut two months before his due date while his parents were visiting Blenheim Palace, his grandfather’s estate. He was born into a family of privilege and spent much of his youth at the aristocratic home romping around the vast grounds on his pony, playing with his toy soldiers in the elaborate sitting rooms, and no doubt having his every whim indulged by the many staff members in residence.
But there is one luxury the young Winston did not have the pleasure of experiencing: an 18-karat gold toilet in the water closet next to his childhood bedroom.
Fast forward nearly 145 years and that indignity was corrected… at least temporarily. In early September, Blenheim Palace installed “America,” a sculpture-cum-performance art piece by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan as part of his Victory Is Not an Option exhibition. The work, on loan from the Guggenheim, is a functioning toilet made out of 18-karat gold that was plumbed into the bathroom next to young Winston’s room, shined to a gilded sparkle, and readied for visitors who were encouraged to book a whopping three minutes of quality time with the piece (the Guggenheim offered only half that).