“The project is in jeopardy,” says an art dealer who planned to create a gallery in Port Talbot around a Banksy mural that appeared in the Welsh town last year.
John Brandler bought the artwork for a six-figure sum from Ian Lewis, the owner of a garage that was graffitied by infamous street artist Banksy. Lewis discovered the mural just before Christmas, but soon became overwhelmed by the number of tourists flocking to view the artwork.
After promising that the Banksy would stay in the Welsh steel town for at least three years, Brandler proposed to relocate it to a new art gallery in the town centre, Ty’r Orsaf. The gallery would include works by other contemporary artists, such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
Yet, Brandler believes council bureaucrats are hindering his plans; “I feel like I’m bashing my head against a wall. In business we’re used to going in, doing a deal and getting it sorted. These guys are used to having 87 committee meetings and not approving anything because you could be criticised.”
Banksy’s mural, entitled Season’s Greetings, covers both sides of the corner of a garage. One side shows a child with a sled playfully catching snowflakes on their tongue. The other side, however, reveals that the ‘snow’ is ash falling from a blazing skip fire.
Currently, the garage is protected by plastic sheeting and 24-hour security. If plans go ahead, a team of experts will move the 4.5 tonne mural in one chunk to the new exhibition space on 29 May.
Despite Brandler’s scepticism, the owners of the gallery space said it was in the “final stages” of agreeing a lease with the council. Gallery organisers plan for the exhibition to be free for under 16s and residents of Port Talbot. “After all, Banksy gave it to the people of the town,” observed Brandler.
The establishment of a contemporary gallery could bring vital tourism into Port Talbot, and it is thought that the relocation of the Banksy might bring up to 150,000 more visitors to the town each year.