What next for the Port Talbot Banksy? - Museums Association

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What next for the Port Talbot Banksy?

How the mural has ignited plans for a new street art museum
Bethan Kapur
The art dealer John Brandler made headlines in January after purchasing the so-called Port Talbot Banksy from steelworker Ian Lewis for a six-figure sum.

The mural, known as Season’s Greetings, appeared on two walls of Lewis's garage in the South Wales town last December. One wall shows a child catching what appear to be snowflakes on his tongue; around the corner, the other wall reveals that these are fragments of ash from a burning skip.
The work is now set to be relocated to the town centre after Neath Port Talbot Council reached an agreement with a local housing association to display the piece in the town’s Ty’r Orsaf buildings. The transfer is due to take place on 29 May.

Brandler hopes the move will be a step towards setting up a new museum of street art in the town, and his plans have the support of the Welsh government.

But while the Banksy is to be relocated, the museum project is not yet a done deal. The council has told the BBC: “The new proposals have a huge potential to help deliver on the economic regeneration and tourism ambitions of everyone involved. However, no final decisions have yet been made and any progress will be largely dependent on further investment and support from the Welsh government."
We spoke to Brandler about the challenges of moving the Banksy, and how a new museum could transform the town.

What sort of impact has the Banksy had on the local area?

John Brandler: The Banksy arriving in Port Talbot has had a phenomenal effect upon the community. Tens of thousands of people have gone to South Wales to look at this one piece of art when they would never have dreamt of going to a rundown steel town, famous for steel mills closing and pollution.

How will you move it?

It has taken six weeks of planning with engineers to create a system, because this is not just a painting: the wall is three-dimensional, and it’s a right-angle corner of a garage. So it’s an incredibly complex place to move.

What inspired you to introduce a street art museum to Port Talbot?

I had been trying to introduce a street art museum and more street art to my hometown of Brentwood in Essex, and I was in the process of persuading the local council over three years. They kept refusing to entertain the idea. Then this Banksy appeared in Port Talbot and it seemed the perfect opportunity. Sadly the local council and politicians are less eager to see a museum there, so after four months of myself working to create this museum, nothing has happened.

What else would be on display?

The intention would be to start the street art process with the French artist Blek le Rat, then go on to Banksy, Pure Evil, Nick Walker, My Dog Sighs, The Connor Brothers, Slinkachu, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, D*Face and others, to show the wide range.

Is Ian Lewis happy that you’ve taken the Banksy off his hands?

Ian Lewis is delighted that I’ve taken the Banksy after all the stress, the worry and the phone calls. He was getting hundreds of telephone calls and he is a steelworker: he is not used to dealing with the press and the media. Having a Banksy put on your wall can be viewed, by some, as a poisoned chalice.

How do you think this Banksy compares to others?

I think this Banksy encapsulates everything that we are saying about atmospheric pollution. We are the first generation that knows what we are doing and the last generation that will have a chance to do anything about it, before we pass the tipping point – if we haven’t passed that tipping point already. This piece has had tens of millions of pounds worth of TV time and it has gone from being a Banksy to the Banksy that everybody is talking about – from Nippon TV to HBO.

You said that the art will remain in the museum for at least three years. Do you know what you intend to do with it after that?

I am hoping that the museum project does take off, the artwork will stay there for a minimum of three years from the time of purchase, and it will become an international draw and tourist centre for the people of south Wales. So the art needs to stay there, and as long as the museum is a success I am happy to leave it there.

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