Essex gallery owner buys Banksy mural that popped up in Port Talbot in December

Essex gallery owner buys Banksy mural that popped up in Port Talbot in December
Port Talbot's 'Season' Greetings' by Bristol artist Banksy behind protective barriers. Courtesy Flickr Commons.
Leading lights  -   Artists

Season’s Greetings, the Banksy mural that rocked the Welsh town of Port Talbot’s world in December has reportedly been sold to Essex-based gallery owner John Brandler. Brandler, who already owns a number of works by the Bristol street artist, has said he paid £100,000 for the newest work thought to have attracted 20,000 visitors already. The mural popped up just before Christmas on the side of a garage owned by steelworker and Port Talbot resident Ian Lewis. After the sale, Lewis told the BBC that Brandler’s purchase was ‘a weight off [his] shoulders.’

Brandler, though, has big plans for the artwork. His recent acquisition may well become the focal point of a street art cultural centre. Brandler is said to still be in talks with the city council of Port Talbot concerning the street art centre and, if the centre is realized, it would be the first of its kind in the UK. Brandler hopes to move the mural from its current home to a facility that would better showcase the work, which, at the moment, sits behind protective sheets of plastic to preserve the work.

According to Brandler, Season’s Greetings will stay put in its Welsh hometown for two or three years. ‘It’s where it belongs,’ Brandler told the BBC. ‘It could be the control magnet for other tourist-based opportunities in the town.’ He told artnet News that since the work was created, the local fish and chips shop has sold out every day.’ Though his gallery is over 200 miles away in Essex, Brandler sees Port Talbot as town that could be moulded into a street arts hub. ‘Port Talbot needs it,’ Brandler continued.

If he receives approval for his vision, Brandler seems eager to act. ‘I have other pieces by Banksy and, depending what is discussed with the local council and the Welsh Government, I could have half a dozen Banksys on display in the town. Let’s take [Season’s Greetings] and move it into the middle of the town where the public can see it without anybody stopping them.’ Brandler also lauded Lewis for his commitment to keeping the Banksy in the low-income steel town. Brandler’s offer wasn’t the only, nor the highest, bid offered to Lewis, but Brandler’s vision aligned with Lewis’ wants for his town.

Lewis told the BBC that the entire experience has changed his – and a number of Port Talbot’s residents – life. ‘I think the town has fallen in love with it, I think everybody loves it and it would have been a shame for it to move from the area. There were lots of offers, lots of options of what people wanted to do with it. There were art collectors, dealers, people who wanted to take it away basically,’ said Lewis. ‘The artwork is going to be moved and I’ll rebuild the garage. I think that every graffiti artist in the area is going to come down and have a go at it now though, although I don’t think Banksy will be back again.’

Lewis plans to remain in Port Talbot now that the sale has relieved him of the stress that came with owning the Banksy. He might take a vacation or two but he’ll return to his town in Wales, hopefully, one day, to a new facility focused around the artwork.