Whistler can be a weird and wonderful place.
Need proof? Consider this: unbeknownst to many locals, earlier last year, owners of the new village store Jonathan+Olivia quietly installed a 136-kilogram concrete piece by the anonymous English street artist Banksy.
The piece, called Bombing Middle England—which depicts older people bowling with bombs, similar to Cinders McLeod's 1999 drawing Anarchic Granny—had long been in storage in Paris. "I got it organized with my wife to have shipped back," says Nic Jones, who co-owns Jonathan+Olivia with his wife Jackie O'Brien Jones. "We're in Whistler now. Let's give Whistler a piece of crazy art that people can come and see. It's a little tourist attraction."
The piece dates back to January 2003, when Jones was first joining a boutique and art collective in Paris called Surface to Air. The shop hosted a group show in its basement called Graffiti, Lies & Deviousness that marked Banksy's first official exhibit.
It was during that show that Banksy privately created Bombing Middle England, a two-metre by 60-centimetre stencil on concrete wall. "Fifteen years on, he's a world-renowned artist," Jones says. "He was cool and it was an interesting project to do—we all knew he would go on to be a deal, but we were working with other artists as well at the time who were equally as interesting and well known as him."
When Surface to Air eventually decided they needed a bigger space, the piece came with them, winding up in storage in Paris.
"The piece is not authenticated by Banksy," Jones adds. "Like all art he does, this is a peculiar piece because it's not something that was on the street. It was kind of a gift from him to Surface to Air."
Meanwhile, in 2005 Jackie created Jonathan+Olivia in Vancouver before moving it to Toronto—where the couple started their family—then, in 2018, to Whistler. Located in Mountain Square, the shop features high-end streetwear and sneakers, creating an aesthetic that fits with Banksy's graffiti.
"It's there to be viewed by the public," Jones says. "It'll never be authenticated for sale. It's there for public viewing, which was the initial intention of Banksy. It was a gift to me and my business partners, not to make money off the back of it. This is why we got it."
The couple, who moved to the resort last July, are inviting Whistlerites to drop by and check the piece out. "We're trying to be another part of the jigsaw," Jones says. "That's what we wanted to be here: part of the community and just get involved. We have a seven-year-old as well. It was a lifestyle change. We wanted to be able to offer our son a different way of going on ... give him a bit of a healthy childhood. He's out skiing, skating and mountain biking; he's living the full Whistler experience."
As for the Banksy piece—don't worry, it's not going anywhere.
"The fact that it weighs 300 pounds and is a seven-foot piece of concrete—to get it installed, it needed a crazy steel base to support it," Jones says. "It's not going anywhere for a long, long time."
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