09 MAY 2018: Next month a former munitions factory in the city’s west end will serve as ground zero for the  largest exhibition ever showcasing the world’s most well-known but rarely seen living graffiti artist. The identity of Banksy - whose iconic “Balloon Girl” currently ranks as the U.K.’s number one favourite artwork - may be the art world’s biggest secret.  While few have actually glimpsed the enigmatic British street artist, many art lovers would love to catch a glimpse of him if only for a fleeting moment.

Toronto scores Banksy

You might not see him in Toronto anytime soon but a collection of 80 original works valued over $35 million associated with the mysterious artist will have its North American premiere at The Junction.

Organizers describe the post-industrial venue on 213 Sterling Road as “raw space” for this exclusive show with pieces culled from private collections. Up until now, this location has served as an indie hub of arts studios and will soon become the future home of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto.

Corey Ross, president and CEO of Starvox Exhibits which is partnering with Live Nation to bring the show to Toronto anticipates “The Art of Banksy” will attract huge crowds during its 4-week summer run, generating strong ROI for the city’s tourism sector.

The Secret Formula

Judging by the well-received arts shows of the past like the one in L.A. when an estimated 35,000 attendees congregated in an industrial warehouse for two days or, more recently last summer in Amsterdam, Toronto just might catch Banksy Fever.

“We literally need to get a 747 (plane) for a 7-metre high installation,” says curator Steve Lazarides, the artist’s former agent and the curator of the Toronto show describing one of the works which has only ever been on display once before.

Lazarides told Travel Industry Today the value of the artist’s collection escalates daily. “Toronto is providing a platform that museums don’t. This should be a museum show,” he says of the fickle politics of art institutions evident behind not showcasing such exhibitions like “The Art of Banksy.”

“This is a one of a kind exhibition. You will never again have the opportunity to see this many of Banksy’s works in one place. Once the exhibition is over, the artwork will be returned to art collectors around the world, and the chances that they will be displayed together again in the future are extremely slim,” he said at an event to announce the exhibition.

Lazarides who has been documenting the artist since the beginning through his lens is the only photographer ever to capture Banksy in motion in the early days.

Few know what the illusive, anonymous Banksy looks like but come June 13 perhaps you might have a better understanding on the very public world of Banksy through his politics and secret messages created from a private artist whose art continues to baffle worldwide.

Tickets for the Art of Banksy are $35 for adults, $32.50 for students and seniors. General tickets go on sale on May 12 at 10 am at www.banksyexhibit.com and TicketMaster. The unauthorized exhibition opens on June 13 and closes on July 11.

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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