The piece of art by Maurizio Cattalan had been installed at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as part of a functioning exhibition where people were invited to use the fully-functioning toilet.
The toilet had only been installed for two days before the theft occurred early on Saturday morning. The exhibition opened on Thursday.
Thames Valley Police received a report of the burglary at the palace at 4:57 a.m. on Saturday saying that the offenders broke in overnight and left the scene of the crime at 4:50 a.m.
“The piece of art that has been stolen is a high value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace,” said Detective Inspector Jess Milne of Thames Valley Police.
“Due to the toilet being plumbed in to the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding Milne said in a police statement. “We believe a group offenders used at least two vehicles during the offense.”
Blenheim Palace issued an official statement on Twitter saying that they are “are saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no-one was hurt.”
“We knew there was huge interest in the Maurizio Cattelan contemporary art exhibition, with many set to come and enjoy the installations,” the statement said. It’s therefore a great shame an item so precious has been taken.”
Visitors could book a three-minute appointment to use the toilet which had been a popular feature of the exhibition when it was displayed at the Guggenheim in New York City.
The Washington Post reports that the Guggenheim received a request from the White House to borrow a painting by Vincent Van Gogh but responded by offering up the toilet-- that has been used by more than 100,000 people -- instead.
Thames Valley Police say that a 66-year-old man has been arrested in connection with this incident and remains in police custody. The man remains unnamed and any charges he may face have not been disclosed.
Edward Spencer-Churchill, the brother of the Duke of Marlborough who resides at Blenheim Palace, spoke to The Times last month before the theft saying “It’s not going to be the easiest thing to [steal].”
“Firstly it’s plumbed in and secondly a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate. So no, I don’t plan on guarding it,” said Spencer-Churchill.