Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Impressive Art of Banksy retrospective opens in Toronto

Story & photos by Allan Tong

The Art of Banksy opens tonight in what will likely be the art event of Toronto's summer, perhaps the year.

The anonymous British street artist known only as "Banksy" enjoys a lavish retrospective of 80 artworks, almost all of them gallery pieces, with a handful of  works lifted from the streets of east London over the past two decades. The show runs June 13-July 11 at 213 Sterling Road after tonight's private opening party.

The Art of Banksy is a greatest hits package of one of the most successful artists in the world, including the iconic Balloon Girl, Flag Wall (top) and Laugh Now. It showcases riot police with happy faces, sardonic monkees, rioters hurling flowers, and spray-painting rats, which all reflect Banksy's leftist politics.

Fans of the artist will enjoy a smorgasbord of Banksy paintings, reaching back to the turn of the century, with works obscure and famous, as small as greeting cards and as ginormous as Flag Wall, which lives up to its title.

Banksy newbies will be tossed into the deep end. The Art of Banksy is comprehensive, beautiful and fun. It cuts no corners.

Curator and Banksy's former agent and personal photographer, Steve Lazarides, has done an impressive job assembling these works from various collectors. Altogether, the art is valued at $35 million. It's worth hearing his anecdotes on the many video clips that accompany the art, such as the plan to unleash a suitcase of Di-Faced Tenners (above), bogus 10-pound notes, in Liverpool Street Station, east London, or how nobody wanted to pay 100 quid to buy signed Banksy lithographs nearly 20 years ago, which would pay off a mortgage today.

Toronto is the first North American stop for this show, after hitting Melbourne, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv and Auckland. Over 40,000 advance tickets have been sold and 10,000 remain available here. The cost isn't cheap but, given its size, comparable to major shows at the AGO and ROM: $35 for adults, and $32.50 for seniors and students. The audio guide is extra, adding more anecdotes from Lazarides and background to the art. It's good, but not essential if you watch the video clips.

Practical tips:
The Art of Banksy takes place at 213 Sterling Road, an industrial building that perfectly suits the street vibe of Banksy's art. But Sterling is in the Junction, which is undergoing a radical transformation from an industrial no man's land into an arts area. Good luck find nearby parking for both cars and bicycles. Expect to park and walk. Landsdowne is the nearest subway station, and the Dundas the closest streetcar. 213 Sterling is roughly equal distance between Dundas/College and Bloor. In other words: expect to walk.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Toronto lands the North American premiere of The Art of Banksy

Story by Allan Tong

The world's most famous--and reclusive--street artist hits Toronto.

From June 13-July 11 The Art of Banksy will showcase more than 80 pieces of his artwork worth more than $35 million at 213 Sterling Road in Toronto's west end.

Curator and Banksy's ex-agent Steve Lazarides said at today's announcement that over 30 pieces will differ from last year's show in Amsterdam. "It's a constantly evolving show." A film, shown in Amsterdam, may be included in Toronto.

In addition to Amsterdam, the Art of Banksy has already graced Melbourne, Tel Aviv and Auckland, explained Michel Boersma, a senior vice-president at Live Nation. Corey Ross, president and CEO of Starvox Exhibits, added that Toronto not only beat out Athens and Stockholm as the next host, but is also the first North American city to present this show. Starvox Exhibits and Live Nation are co-presenting the Art of Banksy.

Included in the Art of Banksy will be Balloon Girl (top), Flag Wall (above) and Laugh Now (below).

Will Banksy be installing anything on the streets of Toronto? "I very much doubt it," curator and Banksy's former agent Steve Lazarides told ChinoKino. Nor will the exhibit include any street pieces, which Lazarides vehemently opposes. "These pieces were made for the cities they were put in."

Left to right: Corey Ross, Michel Boersma and Steve Lazarides (photo: Allan Tong)
And no, Banksy will not appear in Toronto.

For more than a decade, the street artist known only as Banksy, has been posting his politically charged artwork mostly on underpasses, bridges and walls across the streets of London, notably in Shoreditch and Hoxton. This guerilla art has raised accusations of vandalism as enterprising vendors literally peel his work off public walls and frame it for sale. Meanwhile, Banksy's art has been shown in many galleries and has commanded hundreds-of-thousands of dollars at auctions. His identity is secret, though he is English and male.

The venue of the Toronto exhibition is key. Sterling Road is rapidly transforming from a remote industrial area by the railroad tracks (known as the Junction) into a vibrant, artistic hub. For example, MOCCA, the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art, will open there this summer.

Demand should be heavy. Only 50,000 tickets will go on sale starting May 12 at banksyexhibit.com. It won't be cheap: $35 each, and there will be timed tickets and general admission ones without a set time. Any remaining tickets will be sold on standby.

And there will be a gift shop at the exit.

Friday, January 19, 2018

IDS kicks off 20th anniversary with wine, food and design

A day after Canadian interest rates rose and as housing prices continue to flirt with all-time highs, 5,500 Torontonians celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Interior Design Show last night. At the IDS opening party, well-dressed partygoers sipped fine wines from Niagara to California, tasted delicious canopes prepared by local restaurants and, of course, sampled the latest in interior design and furnishings from more than 300 exhibitors. Forget your worries (and winter) and enjoy.

Perrin & Rowe are aglow

Canadian designers Sarah Richardson, Tommy Smythe, Colin & Justin, Arren Williams and international stars Jay Osgerby, Snarkitecture and Kathryn Ireland mingled with the crowd as Bellosound DJ's blasted grooves across the Metro Convention Centre (though no one was dancing). Altogether, the IDS kick-off amounted to a giant TIFF party but with cool furniture. The IDS opener remains one of the prime cultural events of the city.

For the industry and public alike, the IDS continues through Sunday. Designers can attend professional classes, in-person meets with folks like Richardson, and tours (all sold out) of local landmarks, such as the Broadview Hotel and Bisha Hotel. Homeowners can check out the massive floor show (alas, without the food and wine samples) on Saturday and Sunday (not today, Friday). Tickets.

Whipping up Wit cocktails in front of the DJ at the Caesarstone Stage, the central hub of the IDS

Pai Restaurant creates its wing bean salad: blanched wing bean, chilli shrimp paste, toasted coconut and crispy shallots. A food highlight.

Arepa Cafe's mini reina pepiadas - curvy queens: roasted chicken, avocado, red onion and cilantro. Another food highlight.

Hot Bunzz's Spadina BBQ Duck bun: 5-spice BBQ duck, cucumber, orange fennel slaw and hoisin glaze. The most delicious food of the IDS party.

Meyer's Clean Day blends aromotherapy with household cleaning products, like lemon verbena laundry detergeant.

Jan Kath



Design Workshop Architects


Oscar Peterson pianos

Maple Six: 5-year aged cheddar, benedictine bleu and chevre noir
Inbound by Retrobound

Benjamin Moore
Story and photos by Allan Tong