Museum Opens Gold Toilet for Public Use

November 15, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. unisex / ˈyu nəˌsɛks / (adj.) – designed to be used by both males and females
Example: A lot of fashion designers are creating unisex clothes.

2. inequality / ˌɪn ɪˈkwɒl ɪ ti / (n.) – a situation wherein some people have an unfair advantage over the others
Example: The government has started to fight against inequality between men and women.

3. privileged / ˈprɪv ə lɪdʒd / (adj.) – belonging to a group that has more opportunities because of wealth and social status
Example: As an actress, she enjoys a privileged life.

4. exhibition / ˌɛk səˈbɪʃ ən / (n.) – a public display of works of art
Example: The painter set an exhibition to show his newest masterpieces.

5. perception / pərˈsɛp ʃən / (n.) – a way of seeing or understanding something
Example: After his outburst, the public’s perception of him changed.


Read the text below.
A museum has just opened a fully functional and usable gold toilet for public use.

The Guggenheim /ˈgʊənˌhaɪm/ Museum in New York has given visitors the chance to use an 18-karat gold toilet called America, crafted by Italian sculptor Maurizio Cattelan. The toilet is installed in one of the museum’s unisex washrooms. Visitors have to pay the standard $15 admission fee to utilize Cattelan’s creation.

Cattelan created and designed the toilet to show opposition to economic inequality. With an estimated price of $1 to $2 million, the toilet is intended to let the public experience a luxury product that only privileged people can afford.

Cattelan’s creation has reminded the public of French artist Marcel Duchamp’s /düˈʃɑ̃/ work in 1917a porcelain urinal called Fountain. Although the piece was rejected from a major exhibition, it became one of the most iconic artworks of the 20th century. Duchamp defended his work by saying that an ordinary object can also be art if the artist regards it as one. 

In accordance with Duchamp’s argument, a group of researchers from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands, discovered that presenting something as art automatically changes a person’s perception of it. The study’s lead researcher, Noah van Dongen /ˈdɒŋ ən/, explained that people tend to look more closely at an object’s shapes, colors, and composition when it is called an artwork.

Earlier this year, a 17-year-old boy played a prank on the visitors of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art by displaying a pair of glasses on the floor. The visitors took pictures of the glasses, thinking that it was an artwork.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Why do you think the artist created the gold toilet? Discuss.
·         Do you agree with making the gold toilet open for public use? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What do you think defines an art piece, the artist’s intention or the audience’s interpretation? Explain.
·         Which is more important: the beauty of an artwork or its meaning?

November 15, 2016