Banksy artwork restored as public art in pedestrian walkway

Artwork by the British street artist Banksy, which once graced the facade of a Toronto building, is now a public art installation in the PATH, Toronto's Downtown Pedestrian Walkway.

'Guard with Balloon Dog' now a public art installation next to One York Street

Banksy's Guard with Balloon Dog was unveiled in its new place as a public art installation next to One York in downtown Toronto. (Adrian Cheung/CBC News)

The PATH is cool now.

Artwork by the British street artist Banksy, which once graced the facade of a Toronto building, is now on display as a public art piece in the PATH, Toronto's Downtown Pedestrian Walkway, next to One York Street north of Harbour Street.

A Toronto developer that salvaged the artwork, Guard with Balloon Dog, unveiled it on Monday. The artwork features a male figure, dressed in a law enforcement uniform, holding the leash of a pink balloon dog that is muzzled.

The artwork, independently appraised at $850,000 US, has been in storage since December 2014, when the developer, Menkes Development Ltd., decided it should be given new life and put back on display.

Banksy, whose identity has never been confirmed, drew several pieces on Toronto buildings during a 2010 tour of his documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. Only two pieces of his artwork remain — the one now displayed at One York and another in an alleyway near The Esplanade. 

"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," Jared Menkes, vice-president at Menkes, said Monday.

Developers and designers restored the Banksy piece to create a new public viewing space (Adrian Cheung/CBC News)

An accompanying art installation, titled Speculum, reflects the Banksy mural in a hallway. It was created by designer Johnson Chou, who designed it with the intention of creating a public space for Toronto residents as they walk by the Banksy artwork.  

"You're looking at it initially through a distorted lens. It,in fact, looks like an apparition of the Banksy piece," Chou explained. 

"It's about creating wonder for the individual viewing the piece."

Menkes said in a news release that the Banksy artwork was originally found on the façade of a building at 90 Harbour St. Surrounding graffiti and artwork on the piece was removed by a restoration artist. 

Menkes acquired the building and demolished it in 2011 to allow for the eventual redevelopment of the site into what the developer calls a large-scale commercial and condominium project. 

The site, contained in two million square feet of residential and commercial space, features two condo towers, known as Harbour Plaza, a commercial office building called One York, and a PATH connection where the art installation is located.

With files from Muriel Draaisma