Owner pulls Banksy painting from Toronto cannabis store

Jun 26 2020, 9:58 pm

After the owner of a Toronto cannabis store announced he would be putting pieces from his own art collection on display in the store, it was quietly announced this week that they would be coming down.

Featuring the work of Banksy, Kaws, Pure Evil, and Andy Warhol, the collection was originally intended to be displayed as part of a permanent exhibition of “disruptive artists” at the 21 Bloor Street East Tokyo Smoke location.

However, at the bottom of a press release on Wednesday, there were a few lines noting that the works had been removed from the location “based on feedback from individuals, companies, and brands,” adding that the action was taken in an “effort to respect the values and integrity of the cannabis community at large.”

“We did not want anyone to feel as though we were using art to sell cannabis, but rather to bring a unique and free public-facing experience to our customer,” Heydon told Grow in a statement. “With that said, we are planning to integrate some local artisan works in the store to feature and showcase our local community.

“We will be reaching out to the local community next week.”

According to the location’s manager, John Smith, they received a fair amount of backlash after it was suggested that Canopy Growth, the owner of the Tokyo Smoke brand, was purchasing art for their stores while also reportedly laying off employees during the pandemic.

Heydon was one of the winners of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Toronto’s cannabis retail licence lottery in August 2019. He owns a franchise that is separate from Canopy’s company-owned stores.

“Each of these individual franchisees is entitled to put up the artwork that they add,” Smith told Grow in an interview. “The artwork that the individual franchisee owner is putting on the wall is at their discretion. So it was a bit of a backlash as they made the assumptions that head office was putting all this money into art when it wasn’t.”

Heydon, a film producer by trade, is also opening up two more stores in Hamilton under his own brand, 420 Love. It has not yet been determined if the Banksy will hang in Hamilton.

“To clarify, we are not moving to Hamilton, the store will remain at 21 Bloor Street East, and we have two other stores lined up for Hamilton under the 420 Love Brand,” he added. “We are looking forward to supporting two different communities.”

Banksy’s opinion on cannabis, like his identity, is not known publicly, though there is footage of a man claiming to be Banksy rolling something — likely a cigarette — in a 1995 interview.

Whatever he may think of this particular exhibit, the artist’s website disavows any connection to numerous unauthorized exhibitions of his work throughout the globe — including Toronto’s iteration of The Art of Banksy.

Grow reached out to Banksy for comment through a general email address on his website, but did not hear back before time of publication — or probably ever. 

Peter SmithPeter Smith

+ Grow