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Photo: James Bombales

From London to New York and Vienna to San Francisco, the work of elusive street artist Banksy has been seen around the world. And now Toronto has it’s own permanent piece inside the PATH connection adjacent to the One York commercial and Harbour Plaza residential complex at York Street and Lakeshore Boulevard. Real estate firm Menkes Developments unveiled the ‘Guard with Balloon Dog,’ in a ceremony held earlier this week along with a companion piece called ‘Speculum’ by Toronto designer Johnson Chou.

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Enclosed inside a glass display, Banksy’s work is stenciled on large limestone slabs which were originally part of the vacant building previously situated at 90 Harbour Street. It was one of six works attributed to Banksy during his visit to Toronto in May 2010 following the release of his film ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop.’ When Menkes purchased the property in 2011, the developer had the slabs removed, preserved and professionally restored during the construction of the building.

“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,” said 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.”

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The developer sought a public location to display the artwork and selected a spot inside the PATH pedestrian walkway as a nod to its original location. The pedestrian walkway spans 30 kilometres with connections to major tourist attractions, public transportation hubs, entertainment venues and office towers.

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In 2015, Johnson Chou was chosen as the winning designer in a competition seeking ideas for a public art piece to accompany the Banksy in the PATH. ‘Speculum’ consists of a reflective, stainless steel sculpture along the north wall and ceiling of the hallway opposite the Banksy display.

“As an apparatus for viewing, Speculum is created to evoke the past, define views and movement and create an immersive and interpretive installation,” explained Chou. “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.”

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The restoration of the Banksy, its re-installation, and the fabrication and installation of Speculum, are all part of a $2 million public art package included by Menkes in the One York and Harbour Plaza project.

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