Banksy, the world’s most (in)famous street artist, has been spreading his street art around the Earth since the early 1990’s. His work has been displayed in some of the most popular cities around the globe including, New York, London, Vienna, and Sydney.
Toronto has made its way onto Banksy’s list as his new permanent exhibit has been installed inside of the PATH in between York Street and Lakeshore Boulevard. The piece is called the “Guard with Balloon Dog” and features a male police officer holding onto a leash that has a muzzled pink balloon dog on the other end. The piece is stencilled on limestone slabs- which is encased in a glass box- that were once used to build the WCB building that was located at 90 Harbour Street.
The new art installation was unveiled by Menkes Developments, a Toronto real estate firm, to go alongside an already existing piece that was painted by the Toronto designer Johnson Chou; his piece is titled “Speculum.”
Banksy originally painted the “Guard with Balloon Dog” on the 90 Harbour Street WCB building during his visit to Toronto in May 2010 to promote his critically acclaimed documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” He was able to paint six different pieces during his visit, but only two of them survive; the one now displayed in the PATH and another one that can be found in an alley close to The Esplanade. Menkes was able to purchase the property in 2011 and had the limestone slabs professionally removed, preserved and stored.
The piece was independently appraised at $850,000 and has been in storage since late 2014. Menkes thought it was finally time to restore it and display it for the community. In an interview during the unveiling, Jared Menkes, who is the vice-president at Menkes, said, “It was originally for the public, and we thought ‘why not save it? Why not give it back to the public?’ And that’s what we’ve done here.”
“Banksy’s visit to Toronto was well documented, so we were aware of the presence of ‘Guard with Balloon Dog’ on the building,” Menkes continued. “As soon as we were able to do so, we took the steps to protect the piece and were able to preserve and remove the slabs from the building during the demolition.”
Banksy’s street art restoration and installation, alongside Speculum, is part of a $2 million public art project that will help liven up the PATH around One York and Harbour Plaza.
There is a growing amount of graffiti art in Toronto that are more than simply graffiti. One of the most well known artists in the world of graffiti is Banksy and it is believed that in Toronto he has done seven different pieces of art. Overtime some of the pieces have simply been painted over or disappeared. One piece of art that was done by Banksy was on a piece of property at 90 Harbour Street. When the building was being demolished, the art was cut out and saved. There was a secondary piece of graffiti art that was painted on top of the original Banksy piece. That secondary piece of art was removed and then the original Banksy art was restored by a professional restoration company. The decision was made to make the piece freestanding so that required immense work in determining the appropriate way to attempt to display the art piece. When a decision was made on how to best display the art, the work was begun on getting the piece ready to be displayed in Toronto’s PATH network. On February 13th, 2017 the restored Banksy art installation was unveiled to the public.