Wherever he's taken his giant inflatable caricature of Donald Trump as a snaggletoothed rat, John Post Lee has been amazed by the response from others horrified by the regime. But when he began calling around and looking for a place to set up his signature balloon during Miami Art Week, the silence was deafening.
"One guy just said, 'You must be drinking.' It was depressing and disappointing,'" says Lee, who runs the BravinLee Gallery in New York's Chelsea neighborhood. "You would think the art world would have some guts. It's not that they're against political art, but it just has to be political art that no one will notice. They're afraid of the fact that so many wealthy white people who buy art are Trump supporters."
Luckily, Lee finally found a home for the leering statement piece: right in front of Churchill's Pub, where passersby are already stopping to stare and snap photos of the 15-foot-tall "Trump Rat."
Lee, who describes himself as a nonpartisan "secular humanist," designed and created the balloon himself to deal with his emotions after Trump won the White House. The Philly native and longtime New Yorker had loathed Trump for years during his reign as a tabloid-hogging developer; seeing him ascend to the presidency was almost more than he could bear.
Then he collaborated with artist Jeffrey Beebe to sketch up the cartoon of the Donald with tiny eyes and giant rat teeth jutting from bright-pink lips. Turned into balloon form, it echoed a famous rat used by striking construction workers to protest nonunion scabs brought to job sites.
Lee erected the piece at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan, just down the street from Trump Tower, around the time the president was returning to his office from D.C. The balloon sculpture later made its way to Washington, where it was set up in Dupont Circle.
"When Trump was elected, I was moved to create this as a cathartic act for myself, but I soon discovered that others really enjoyed it," he says.
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It's a happy accident, Lee says, that in Miami the Trump Rat ended up staring across the street at an oversize portrait of Winston Churchill outside the eponymous pub.
"Winston couldn't be more the opposite of Trump. He grew into this position of power and became a legendary statesman. Trump is just in a race to the bottom," says Lee, whose gallery will show its own pieces all week at Untitled, Miami Beach.
Trump Rat isn't for sale, but Lee says he'd love to find a permanent home for it.
"I'm aways looking for an organization that wants to take it, put it up every day, and really just weaponize it," he says. "I already have a second Trump balloon in mind."