New Yorkers came by the thousands to welcome President Trump back to the gilded world of his Fifth Avenue home last week, though not gladly. Chanting “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” they were clearly upset that he equated a Neo-Nazi group marching in Charlottesville, VA brandishing swastikas and hollering “Jews will not replace us” with those who protested the march. The city, once the hometown of presidents Jefferson and Monroe, now carries the dubitable distinction of serving as the current president’s staging ground for embarrassing the nation.

A toy makes it big

And he did it all without a single word of condolence to the parents of Heather Heyer (killed by a Nazi-sympathizer who used his car as the murder weapon). Also standing with the multitudes waiting on the president’s arrival at Trump Tower was a 15-foot-tall inflatable sculpture of him that artist Jeffrey Beebe calls “Trumpy the rat.” So now this art form – in essence a shaped balloon not unlike the fun stuff of children’s birthday parties -- has another use: making fun of Trump.

How can you call this art?

Balloon art was made famous by Warhol in the ‘60s and I’ve never understood how this kiddie toy can be considered sculpture and put on pedestals in museums like the Whitney in New York, the Guggenheim in Bilbao, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

How can something so easily deflated be considered sculpture – unless Hippocrates had it wrong when he said, "ars longa, vita brevis": “Art is forever, life is short.” If it turns out that the ancient Greek was right and inflatable art is a contradiction in terms, stick a pin in it, connoisseurs!

Not just for kids anymore

Alas, inflatables are taken so seriously by the art world that there’s even a tome on their philosophical history ("Blow-Up: Inflatable Art, Architecture and Design").

Author Sean Topham reviewed the innumerable uses of the air-filled form since the invention of the hot-air balloon in the 18th century, and how it has been constantly rediscovered by architects and artists. Warhol, for example, used pneumatic forms to explore its uses. His "Silver Clouds" was filled with helium and oxygen so it could float through a museum’s space.

Are you getting this? The inflatable, commonly associated with the balloon animals of toy land, is not just for kids anymore. It has morphed into high art.

Poetry or banality, which is it?

When Warhol’s large-scale inflatable sculpture came to the Huntsville Museum of Art in Alabama last year, exhibit curator Carrie Lederer said in a statement that inflatables “challenge our fascination with artworks that are surreal, humorous and poetic.” But Jeff Koons, who gave the world inflatable flowers and a rabbit, sees it another way, famously saying, “People respond to banal things.” Along those lines, as my favorite art critic Robert Hughes once said of Koons’ work: “You can’t imagine America’s singularly depraved culture without it.” Trump in inflatable form fits right in.