Waters, known by his moniker the Pope of Trash for his skill in merging high and low culture, is behind the cult classics Hairspray (2007), Pink Flamingos (1972), and Cry Baby (1990). Many of his most notorious projects center around the city of Baltimore, where he was born and raised.
The new restrooms are the first at the institution designed to be gender-neutral. With the entryway reading, “The John Waters Restrooms/All Gender,” the design for the newly-minted rest area—which consists of four private walled rooms that are doored from floor to ceiling and accompanied by a communal sink area— is meant to maximize privacy.
“Public restrooms make all people nervous,” Waters said in a speech at the museum reception for the unveiling. “They’re unpredictable. They’re also fueled by accidents, just like my favorite contemporary art.”
Together with his collaborator, trans activist Elizabeth Coffey, who has been a recurring figure in several of Waters’s films, the two took the occasion to recognize trans rights. Coffey noted in her remarks that despite the night’s playfulness, the museum’s part in the redesign is a serious matter that holds weight with its transgender constituents.
Waters was appointed to the museum’s board of trustees in August. When he announced the gift of his private art collection last fall, he also asked for the bathrooms to be renamed—a request that he reported was first met with disbelief by other trustees. In November 2020, Waters donated 372 works from his personal art collection to the museum. The gift included photographs and works on paper by the likes of Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Lee Lozano, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, and Christopher Wool.