Monday, June 04, 2018

Banksy Guard with a Balloon Dog

The artist's canvas is usually a concrete or brick wall, too heavy to mail and very difficult to transport, yet for a shining moment the famous graffiti artist dropped by Toronto and left several pieces scattered around the city. Seven murals were deemed to be the work of Banksy, most were vandalized and only two survive - one in the St Lawrence area behind plexiglas and one of the murals and it's limestone wall slab removed from site and has a new home at One York.

Banksy, who in 2010 was deemed one of the most influential people by Time magazine, is an unknown artist, painter, filmaker and activist that hides behind a concealed identity. He doesn't even sign his work, he created an organization called Pest Control to verify the authenticity of his public works.

I love his works and photographed many of his Toronto creations as the city woke up to his busy time here. Before you could blink most of his stuff was painted over by taggers or even building owners. Only one sought to protect the work and quickly put up a protective screen of plexiglass which people painted over or marked up. It still sits in place, now behind a gate near Church and The Esplanade.

The Guard with a Balloon Dog lasted quite awhile on the Ontario Provincial Police Headquarters, formerly the Workers Compensation Board building, but then one day a construction fence went up and the developer, Menkes, quickly removed the wall slab with the art, and put it away. Finally, after many years Menkes redeveloped the site as the Sun Life Financial Tower and Harbour Plaza Residences and put the Banksy mural on display. You can find it on the second floor, near the escalator on the north side of the building in a hallway leading up to the PATH system pedestrian bridge crossing of Lake Shore Boulevard.

Unveiled as Public Art by Menkes Developments Ltd. on February 13, 2017 after having the art carefully removed from site. "Banksy's visit to Toronto was well documented, so we were aware of the presence of 'Guard with Balloon Dog' on the building when we began the process of purchasing the 90 Harbour property," says Jared Menkes, Vice-President of the High-Rise Residential Division of Menkes. As soon as we were able to do so, we took steps to protect the piece and were able to preserve and remove the slabs from the building during the demolition process."

"This Banksy piece represents an exciting contribution to the public art landscape in Toronto and we wanted to reintroduce it to the public in a manner that was respectful to its origins," says Menkes. "In 2015 we commissioned a limited design competition seeking ideas for its installation, and ultimately selected the concept proposed by Toronto-based designer Johnson Chou." Johnson's proposal protected the piece and added a companion piece called 'Speculum' with a reflective, inverted pyramid and the opposing wall.

"As an apparatus for viewing, Speculum is created to evoke the past, define views and movement and create an immersive and interpretive installation," adds Chou, noting that "as one walks west along the PATH, one sees Speculum, a mirrored, polished stainless steel cantilevered form, that not only guides one past the underside of the escalator, but reflects what is to come around the corner."

Now the Art of Banksy Exhibition is coming to Toronto starting on June 13, 2018. The largest collection of Banksy art in the world will be displayed at 213 Sterling Road. "This is a one of a kind exhibition – you will never again have the opportunity to see so many works in one place. Once the exhibition is over, the artwork will be returned to 40 different art collectors around the world, and the chances that they will be displayed together again in the future are extremely slim,” says Steve Lazarides, curator.

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