Police are searching for a solid gold toilet stolen from the birthplace of Winston Churchill. Valued at £1 million (around $1,242,615 USD) and installed as part of an art exhibition at Blenheim Palace, the 18-carat toilet was taken in the early hours of Saturday, Thames Valley Police said.
The theft of the fully-functioning piece, named "America" and designed by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, caused significant flood damage at the 18th-century Oxfordshire estate as it had been plumbed in for visitors to use.
A 66-year-old man has been arrested over the incident and the palace was closed to the public on Saturday.
It seems like a scene from "The Pink Panther" movie.
“A group of offenders broke into the palace and stole a high value toilet made out of gold that was on display," Inspector Richard Nicholls from Thames Valley Police said. “We believe they used at least two vehicles during the offense and left the scene at around 4:50 am. The artwork has not been recovered at this time, but there is a thorough investigation being carried out."
When asked if a reception party reportedly held on Thursday, the night of the exhibition's launch, could be connected, Nicholls added: “I am not aware of the reception party personally, but that would form part of our enquiries in order to ascertain events leading up to the item being stolen."
The sculpture hit the headlines last year after it was offered to President Donald Trump by the chief curator of the Guggenheim museum in New York.
It was installed at the country home of the aristocratic Marlborough family as part of exhibition by conceptual artist Cattelan which began on Thursday.
The theft comes after the Duke of Marlborough's half-brother, Edward Spencer-Churchill, said last month it wouldn't be “the easiest thing to nick."
“Firstly, it's plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate," Spencer-Churchill told the Times. “So no, I don't plan to be guarding it."
The golden toilet had proved popular at the Guggenheim and has been described by critics as a pointed satire against the excesses of wealth.
“Whatever you eat, a two-hundred-dollar lunch or a two-dollar hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise," Cattelan has previously said.
More than 100,000 people made use of its “participatory nature" at the Fifth Avenue museum between 2016 and 2017, making available to the public “an extravagant luxury product seemingly intended for the 1%," said the Guggenheim website. It gained renewed attention last year when the White House requested to borrow a Vincent van Gogh painting for Trump and his wife Melania's private living area, the Washington Post reported.
Thames Valley Police said they were called to reports of a burglary at the Oxfordshire estate shortly before 5am on Saturday.
“The piece of art that has been stolen is a high value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace," Detective Inspector Jess Milne said. “The artwork has not been recovered at this time, but we are conducting a thorough investigation to find it and bring those responsible to justice."
Cattelan's exhibition is scheduled to run at World Heritage Site Blenheim Palace from September 12 to October 27. Blenheim Palace chief executive Dominic Hare urged anyone with any information to contact police.
“We are saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no-one was hurt," he said. "We are very grateful to our staff and to Thames Valley Police for their rapid and brave reactions. We knew there was huge interest in the Maurizio Cattelan contemporary art exhibition, with many set to come and enjoy the installations. It's therefore a great shame an item so precious has been taken, but we still have so many fascinating treasures in the palace and the remaining items of the exhibition to share.
The investigation continues but visitors can experience the rest of the exhibit.