Menkes just unveiled a restored art piece attributed to the anonymous British artist, Banksy, in Toronto’s PATH system near the One York office tower.
In 2010, Banksy reportedly visited Toronto following the release of the film Exit Through the Gift Shop. During that time, six Banksy pieces popped up in Toronto, one of which was at 90 Harbour Street. The piece was dubbed “Guard with Balloon Dog.”
In 2011, Menkes purchased the site to develop Harbour Plaza (two condo towers rising 66 and 70 storeys) and One York (a 35-storey AAA office tower), both of which rise from a four-storey retail podium. Recognizing the significance of the Banksy piece, Menkes took action to protect it during demolition. The piece was removed from the site in three limestone panels, preserved, and then professionally restored.
“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.”
If you’re unaware of the Toronto’s PATH system, it’s a 30 kilometre walkway that’s primarily underground. It features 1,200 shops and services and connects to six subway stations, office towers, and Union Station. The Banksy installation is located on the north side of One York, where the PATH system actually rises above grade to the second floor.
“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,” Menkes adds. “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.”
Chou’s proposal is titled “Speculum” (Latin for “an instrument to behold”). The proposal protects and displays the Banksy piece and also features a companion piece.
“As an apparatus for viewing, Speculum is created to evoke the past, define views and movement and create an immersive and interpretive installation,” says 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 (Banksy’s piece).”
The restoration, fabrication, and installation of Speculum cost $250,000, which is part of a $2 million public art initiative at Harbour Plaza and One York.