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Banksy leaves ‘Season’s greeting’ on a Port Talbot garage

19th December 2018

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Note: This post has been moved from Latest Picks due to length of extended updates.

Banksy confirms he WAS behind ‘season’s greetings’ graffiti on Port Talbot garage (mirror.co.uk).

Banksy “Season’s greetings” on Port Talbot garage

With a 55-year-old Welsh steelworker seemingly seeing Christmas come early with the stencil-sprayed image on his nondescript garage constructed himself 20 years ago after the street artist and activist confirming it as his “Season’s greetings” with videos and pictures on social media (Instagram).

Depicting a boy with snow falling on him and a picture of a large metal bin with flames pouring from it, the pieces cover two walls.

The inherent pictorial irony being that it is seemingly actually ash from the burning bin on one wall rather than snow falling on the delighted boy on the other as satire with the steelworks that thickens the air with black ash in the distance, and drawing a crowd as the first Banksy piece in Wales with steelworker garage owner and brother-in-law keeping watch over it:

Whoever wasn’t on watch made cups of tea for the steady stream of people stopping by to take a look and grab a picture next to the artwork.

Updated 23rd December 2018

With at least 2,000 visitors having turned up to see it so far and with traffic wardens have been drafted in by the local council to control traffic it is, of course, only a matter of time before another “artist” attempts to upstage and become a target for “some idiot who wants to make a name for themselves”, just as Banksy himself did with the late King Robbo’s “Robbo Incorporated” piece (Wikipedia) during their graffiti war.

Banksy’s ‘Season’s Greetings’ protected with plastic (bbc.co.uk).

Plastic screen installed to protect Banksy’s “Season’s greeting”
Banksy’s latest work in south Wales has been covered with a protective plastic screen.

Paid for by Frost/Nixon, Tony Blair in The Special Relationship and Underworld werewolf leader playing actor Michael Sheen who grew up in the area, expressing a wish to not let the financial burden of safeguarding the art does not fall on Mr Lewis, the steelworking garage owner, at least according to his office.

It could be said that the plastic screen does somewhat impinge the view of the disenfranchised iconography, with doubtless Banksy suggesting it’s for the people and not intended to be put in a makeshift plastic cage gallery. But will even that protect it for “the people” or is, as Banksy had done with Robbo, is defacement a natural part of the competitive nature of street graffiti art, “is Banksy a sell out” a matter much debated by presumably not so successful yet (debate.org).

A security guard chased the culprit away on Saturday as he tried to pull down the newly-fitted plastic screen that protects the Port Talbot graffiti.

With police called but who who in the end not attend and extra security guards drafted to protect from what the Beeb termed a “drunk halfwit”.

Updated 7th January 2019

And now with the festivities over garage owning 55-year-old Welsh steelworker chappie realising the full bulk of the uncommissioned public art white elephant he was gifted:

Port Talbot Banksy garage owner ‘struggling’ (bbc.co.uk).

“There was even talk that people wanted to chisel it out and take it home, they wanted to steal it.

“I’ve been stressed, it’s dropped a bomb on me. I’d just like a bit of normality back into my life, like it used to be.”

Needless to say as unsolicited custodian he’s likely well aware of the vitriol that would doubtlessly be directed at him if he should consider the most reasonable solution being to accept the first appropriate offer to have someone to “chisel it out” of his garage wall for auction or even if he just decided to take a break and let people spray paint penises on it.

With about 20,000 people understood to have visited the Banksy over Christmas, [steelworking, garage owning] Mr Lewis said he wants to see the garage wall cut out and moved to a safer location, while staying in the area.

Leaving him waiting for the National Assembly for Wales’s culture committee to argue that the Welsh Government should purchase the piece, with predicable bureaucratic reply:

The Welsh Government will see what can be done to protect the artwork, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

And giving fine demonstration of habitual governmental passing of buck:

“I’m going to do is to ask [culture minister] Dafydd Elis Thomas to see what can be done, probably not directly but through the organisations we fund in those fields, to make sure that no undue harm comes to that new piece of art we’ve been able to enjoy.”

Needless to say, that no doubt shall take some time.

Updated 9th January 2019

Perhaps leaving the most reasonable solution being to indeed accept offer to have someone “chisel it out”, public art vitriol be damned!

Buyer ‘willing to pay £100,000 for Port Talbot Banksy’ (bbc.co.uk).

Art dealer and Banksy expert John Brandler said his client would offer a six-figure sum “because it fits nicely into his collection”.

But with Welsh steelworking garage owner Mr Lewis “understood to be meeting the Welsh Government and Arts Council of Wales to discuss other options”. Yeah, many a late night left as unsolicited custodian waiting for those bureaucratic “other options”.

Updated 12th January 2019

And while Welsh Government and Arts Council of Wales hope from one leg to another discussing “other options” another Banksy beneficiary advocating “chisel it out” as most reasonable solution too:

Port Talbot Banksy owner ‘should cut it down’ (bbc.co.uk).

Banksy’s “Mobile Lovers” on the wall of the Broad Plain youth club in Bristol in 2014
Banksy’s “Mobile Lovers” on the wall of the Broad Plain youth club in Bristol in 2014

Dennis Stinchcombe said he received death threats after mural Mobile Lovers appeared on the doorway of his Bristol youth club in 2014.

He sold the work and used the proceeds to save the struggling club.

And saying steelworking garage owner Mr Lewis should not delay:

“If he’s got any sense he will cut it down and put it somewhere very safe, until he works out what to do with it.“

But until “he works out what to do with it” somebody would have to pay for careful chiseling and preservation rather than cack-handed attempt with sledgehmmer and crowbar, and if that’s not gonna be Arts Council of Wales then does he really leave any option but acceptance of a sum to have it “fit nicely” into some rich chaps collection. Sum also paying for replacement blocks to ensure old furniture and carpets presumably in garage do not get too much of a taste of Welsh winter weather and perhaps a bodyguard to protect against similar death threats from those vexed at loss of their dystopia-defining public art.

Updated 18th January 2019

And so inevitably:

Banksy Port Talbot garage mural sold to art dealer for six-figure sum (news.sky.com).

John Brandler, 63, who owns Brandler Galleries in Essex, said he had agreed the artwork could stay in Port Talbot for at least two years.

With Brentwood residing Mr Brandler saying “I’m so chuffed to have it, you have no idea” and that “It’s not just a girl holding a balloon or a bunch of flowers or something. This is a really strong social message.” And capitalising on the media attention himself suggesting he could put “five or six” more of the artist’s works he owns on public display in the town to help tourism and “make Port Talbot a go-to place rather than a go-from place“:

“Within a short time I’m thinking of bringing five or six more Banksys to Port Talbot. Let’s do an exhibition.

“If we all work together I think we will get tonnes of people coming to Port Talbot.”

With some perhaps wondering if he has plans for if not a pop-up theme night casino then at least a few burger vans plotted around to fuel all that “work together” too.

Updated 29th May 2019

Port Talbot Banksy mural: Artwork arrives at new home (bbc.co.uk).

After months of planning, engineers used a crane to lift the 4.5 tonne mural on to a lorry in front of crowds.

It has since arrived in one piece at the town’s Ty’r Orsaf building.

With steelworking, garage owning, unsolicited custodian Mr Lewis saying although glad to see it gone, he was “proud” of the outcome:

“It’s been a real mix—it’s been a pleasure, it’s been a pain, it’s been exciting, it’s been stressful.”

But that:

“I don’t think I’ll miss it, but I probably will pop in and visit it.”

With, in preparation for the move, the 4.5 tonne piece covered in resin to help prevent the wall from crumbling and with clipboard fixed to the back for it to be put in a crate, “a bit like a sandwich”, Essex-based art dealer and bearded Banksy expert John Brandler said, confident the move would go to plan after seeing a video of a replica wall moved but perhaps understandably still a bit nervous of disasters or even further stunts by the artist with Banksy’s self-shredding Balloon Girl print in mind (related stories below) and world-wide audience watching:

Speaking before the piece arrived, he said: “The nerves are going to be this afternoon when we unwrap it because anything could have happened and we don’t know because it’s covered up.

“When they take the front off, that’s the bit I’m going to be nervous.”

But lifted by a crane and given a police escort safely arriving and unveiled at its new gallery home in the Ty’r Orsaf building, a former police station in a regenerated part of Port Talbot’s town center.

John Branler and Ian Lewis with the mural arriving at its new home
John Branler (left) and Ian Lewis (right) with the mural arriving at its new home

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