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from globe t.o.

Prankster artist Pascal Paquette stands beside a faux Crate and Barrel sign in the Distillery District.Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail

Denizens of the Distillery District were recently surprised - or horrified - to learn about the impeding arrival of a Crate & Barrel store.

Until last week, three sandwich boards on Trinity Street read, "Look what we're building," with the chain's logo on it. An arrow on one sign pointed to Cannery Building, where pedestrians could presumably check out some early offerings if they climbed to the third floor.

Once they hiked up there, though, excited consumers would be disappointed to find a Francophone art gallery, Le Laboratoire D'art, which this month is displaying the work of the 35-year-old artist and prankster Pascal Paquette.

Some consider this ruse a comment on the growing number of boutiques in this so-called art district.

Others walked away disappointed or irate.

Last week- on May 8, to be exact - Mr. Paquette discovered the cold consequences of his art: a property-management company had seized his prized sandwich boards.

Outside the gallery five days later, Mr. Paquette shook his head in dismay, strains of saw music wafting from Le Laboratoire. "They do not understand the project," said the 35-year-old. "They're censoring my show without knowing what it's about."

As he sees it, a furniture chain has no place in a neighbourhood for artists. Gentrification is a familiar theme for Mr. Paquette, who caused a stir in 2003 when he plastered a fake Starbucks "coming soon" sign in the front window of the now-defunct Mind Control gallery in Parkdale.

"The point is, I'm starting a conversation," he said.

Still, some would like to end it.

To get his signs back, property management demanded he put some kind of waiver on them, alerting pedestrians to his tricks.

"I see it as false advertising," said Linda Fujita, the senior property manager at the Distillery District. Ms. Fujita said she has received an overwhelming number of complaints from visitors who have been duped.

As this hostage drama continued, others hoped for a peaceful resolution. "This is not like people killing baby dogs," said Julie Tremble, the 31-year-old director of Le Laboratoire D'art.

"There must be a way we can work together."

On Thursday, Ms. Tremble came to an compromise with Kelly Willson Harvey, the manager of tenant services at Artscape, the subtenant company that rents to artists and art organizations in the area.

Mr. Paquette did not have to amend his signs, but there had to be some kind of signage in the lobby indicating that this was part of an exhibition.

"As long as it's off the art, I'm fine," he said, relieved perhaps that his art might have triumphed over commerce.

On Friday, his signs were back on the curb. In the lobby there was a stack of sheets that offered information about the artist, a dishevelled mess that excited shoppers probably will breeze past.

"Most people will miss it," said Mr. Paquette. "They won't stop."