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There is a secret hiding in plain sight just around the corner from our Toronto office. People walk by the corner of Church and the Esplanade every day, not knowing that they are passing by something special: a piece of street art by world-famous artist Banksy.
Banksy got his start in the graffiti arts world in the 1980s in Bristol, England. He quickly gained notoriety, making his way into the London scene in 1999. His works are largely graffiti, created with pre-cut stencils, employing a unique brand of dark humour and political critique. The artist uses Banksy as a pseudonym and has never publicly revealed his true identity. Recently, scientists at London’s Queen Mary University employed geographic profiling typically used to catch criminals that identified Banksy as artist Robin Gunningham. This has yet to be confirmed.
Rage, Flower Thrower
As he began to travel the world, he would leave his distinctive works on the various landscapes he encountered. In addition to England, Banksy art has been spotted in the United States, Australia, Israel, Palestine and Mali.
Banksy Formerly at 90 Harbour Street
Has Been Preserved by Menkes Developments Ltd
In 2010, he released the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, a commentary on street art and how it is marketed. While Banksy was promoting this documentary, he left a few pieces throughout Toronto during an overnight visit. Initially, three pieces were spotted. Four more would follow before Banksy’s publicist confirmed the artist had indeed been sharing his work on Toronto’s streets. Of the original seven, only one near the corner of Church and the Esplanade (see location on Google Street View) remains visible to the public today. Another was saved from destruction by Menkes Developments when they tore down the former OPP Headquarters at 90 Harbour Street to make way for a new office building. Michelle Howell, Marketing Manager for Menkes, reports to us that, “It looks like this piece will be installed in early 2017 in a public area at our One York development.”
UPDATE: As promised, in February of 2017, Menkes Devleopments revealed the new Banksy installation at One York, within the PATH pedestrian walkway.
Banksy’s New Digs
@ One York | PATH
As Banksy had no formal permission to post any of his pieces, the majority have since been painted over by uninformed building owners or even tagged by other street artists who resent his controversial use of stencils. Luckily, the Banksy near our office has been protected. The building owner decided to preserve the art by securing a piece of plexiglas on top of it, wanting it to remain something that the public can see, experience, enjoy or critique. Most people though, just keep on walking, not realizing this secret is hiding in plain sight.