Donald Trump made his first official visit to the United Kingdom in 2018. Upon his arrival, he was quickly greeted with mass protests and a giant 20-foot-tall balloon of his disgruntled, diaper-wearing doppelgänger hovering over London’s Parliament Square. The caricature of a rotund Baby Trump, armed with an iPhone, a contemptuous sneer, and tiny orange hands, was less than flattering. Designed by the British artist Matthew Bonner, the helium-filled balloon made international headlines when London mayor Sadiq Khan—a frequent target of Trump’s tirades—gave permission for it to fly above the city after more than 10,000 people signed a petition and raised $20,000 through a crowdfunding campaign. Since then, the giant inflatable has become somewhat of a symbol of dissent at anti-Trump protests around the world, having flown in France, Argentina, Denmark, Ireland, and several locations in the United States.
The “Trump Baby” blimp will soon wrap up its global tour and return to its hometown to enter the Museum of London’s permanent collection. It’ll display at the museum’s upcoming West Smithfield location as part of its collection of protest ephemera, which includes banners, tents, and flags dating back to the early 20th century. Having first expressed interest in acquiring the balloon two years ago, Museum of London director Sharon Ament says that the effigy marks a crucial continuation of London’s history of political protests that range from early-20th-century Suffragette marches to this past summer’s Black Lives Matter protests that saw numerous colonial monuments toppled. “By collecting the baby blimp, we can mark the wave of a feeling that washed over the city that day and capture a particular moment of resistance—a feeling still relevant today as we live through these exceptionally challenging times—that ultimately shows Londoners banding together in the face of extreme adversity,” she said in a statement.
Bonner, meanwhile, hopes the balloon inspires future museum goers to reflect on how to continue fighting against hate. “While we’re pleased that the Trump Baby can now be consigned to history along with the man himself, we’re under no illusions that this is the end of the story,” the activist and designer said in a statement. “We hope the baby’s place in the museum will stand as a reminder of when London stood against Trump—but will prompt those who see it to examine how they can continue the fight against the politics of hate. This large inflatable was just a tiny part of a global movement—a movement that was led by the marginalized people whom Trump’s politics most endangered—and whose role in this moment should never be underestimated.”
News of the acquisition arrives as Trump has exactly one day left in the Oval Office—the final stretch of a contentious single term that has been marked by a historic second impeachment for inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead. The incident, which was widely condemned as an affront to the democratic process, aimed to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election results in favor of Joe Biden, who will be sworn in as U.S. president tomorrow. Despite the election being called for Biden on Nov. 7th, Trump refused to concede for two months and baselessly alleged widespread election fraud.
The balloon has reportedly already arrived at the museum stuffed into a suitcase. “It’s timely, because it’s coming to us in the final days of President Trump being President Trump,” Ament tells The Guardian. “The most ironic and fitting thing now is that it’s currently in quarantine in the museum. All objects have to be put into quarantine before they go into the collection because they could have insects.” It’s unclear when the museum plans to display Trump Baby, but rest assured the balloon will be in good company. The design team is keeping a half-size version of the balloon to fly at other protests, and the museum might acquire a similar balloon of Khan reclining in a bikini that once flew over London.