Officials at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum were tight-lipped on Thursday night about an unusual email exchange in which its chief curator is said to have rebuffed a White House request for a Vincent van Gogh painting and offered a gold toilet instead.
The exchange between the curator, Nancy Spector, and Donna Hayashi Smith of the White House’s Office of the Curator was reported Thursday afternoon by The Washington Post.
Citing a Sept. 15 email that The Post said it had obtained, the newspaper reported that Ms. Spector had turned down the White House’s request to borrow van Gogh’s “Landscape With Snow,” which officials had hoped they could use to decorate President and Melania Trump’s living quarters.
As an alternative, The Post said Ms. Spector offered up what one might call a “participatory sculpture”: a fully functional, solid 18-karat-gold copy of a Kohler toilet titled “America” that more than 100,000 people had already used in a museum restroom.
“It is, of course, extremely valuable and somewhat fragile, but we would provide all the instructions for its installation and care,” The Post quoted Ms. Spector as writing in the email to the White House curator’s office. The sculpture’s artist, the email said, “would like to offer it to the White House for a long-term loan.”
Asked Thursday night if she could confirm The Post’s report, Sarah Eaton, a spokeswoman for the Guggenheim, said only, “I have nothing further to add.” Ms. Eaton would not make the email described by The Post available to The New York Times and said Ms. Spector was not available for comment.
Attempts to reach Ms. Spector; Richard Armstrong, the Guggenheim’s director; and the sculpture’s artist, Maurizio Cattelan, were not successful.
It was not clear if Ms. Spector would face discipline. (The Guggenheim rehired her from the Brooklyn Museum last year in a new and more powerful position.)
The Times also sent emails to multiple White House spokespeople who did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday night.
(Excerpt) Read more in: The New York Times