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'Saving Banksy' comes to Toronto

Last Updated Jun 5, 2018 at 11:38 pm EDT

A sought after art piece by a controversial graffiti artist is tagging Toronto home for the next few days.

The Saving Banksy Exhibit features the Haight Street Rat, a giant rodent that isn’t scaring people away, but instead, drawing them closer.

The piece is by notoriously elusive UK graffiti artist Banksy, a political activist known for his satirical street art that is heavy on social commentary.

The infamous rat, which has an estimated $2 million price tag, was completed in 2010 on the side of a San Francisco bed and breakfast. It was one of 8 illegal paintings on buildings across the city.

“I would see the public’s reaction to see the Banksys and two days later the building owners would paint it over” explained Brian Greif, a passionate art collector and TV executive.

“So I came up with the idea of saving at least one of the pieces.”

Since the graffiti is on private property, the owners of the building had the rights to the piece. Greif purchased the rights from them and decided to make the highly acclaimed 2017 Netflix documentary ”Saving Banksy.” From the film grew a tour, helping promote the importance of street art and starting a conversation

“Graffiti is art, it’s the most important art in the history of art” says Greif.

“Before graffiti and street art, it was mostly private, artists would go in their private studios. Graffiti artists, street artists put their work on the street for the public to see for free.”

And Greif isn’t the only one advocating for street art. Los Angeles graffiti icon Risk was also on hand to showcase his pieces and spread the word about this art form.

“You can’t disregard street art just because a couple of people out there are doing what you don’t like” says Risk.

“I was a bad kid and art saved my life. I’m very thankful for that and art can save a lot of kids’ lives”

The exhibit not only showcases Banksy’s piece, but also helps promote local artists from each tour stop location. For the art scene here in Toronto, this is an important opportunity.

“Yes we are not LA or New York, but the incredible talent in Toronto is growing and we will be there soon” says Anthony Ricciardi, a local artist here in Toronto.

“Giving an opportunity to showcase their work and tell their story is beautiful.”

The exhibit is open to the public from June 6th to the 11th  at Yorkville Village and is free for all.