John Brandler, an Essex-based art dealer and gallery owner, has backed away from plans to open a street art museum in Port Talbot after purchasing Banksy’s Season’s Greetings mural.
Shortly after buying the artwork for a mere £100,000, Brandler proposed a museum highlighting street artists for the Welsh town that would centre around the artwork that became an immediate success. Now, though, Brandler’s vision of a museum has faded as issues have arisen with Port Talbot’s local council. ‘The whole thing has been a disaster from day one,’ Brandler told Wales Online. ‘I think it is terribly sad that the people in control of Port Talbot are not interested in making an international museum.’
The proposed building for the museum became the main point of contention between Port Talbot council and Brandler. Originally, an old police station in Ty’r Orsaf was suggested as the future grounds for the institution but recently, the space within the station that was offered to Brandler significantly shrunk. Season’s Greetings has already been removed from its original location and is on view (albeit from the street and between the hours of 8am and 8pm, when the windows aren’t shuttered) at the police station. The city’s council says they ‘will do [their] best to bring [the project] to fruition’ but they have lacked reason from Brandler as to why he needs such a large space. Season’s Greetings, which has been in its new home for just over two weeks, ‘can currently be accommodated in a single unit and we have not had a definitive list of exhibits which would assist further planning,’ said a spokesperson for the city according to Wales Online.
Another key issue for Brandler is that he claims he has yet to be allowed into the building since the council holds the lease for the building. ‘How can I put 25-30 pieces of art in a building I am not allowed in?’ questioned Brandler. The art dealer owns a number of works by prominent street artists including Pure Evil, My Dog Sighs, and Blek le Rat and he anticipated moving a number of those works to Port Talbot to exhibit alongside the 4.5 tonne Banksy work. Now, it seems that Brandler has no intentions of moving any other works to Port Talbot.
Season’s Greetings popped up overnight just before Christmas on Ian Lewis’ garage and instantly garnered thousands of visitors. Thought to be a comment on local industry and the artwork was sold in January much to Lewis’ relief. On May 29th, the artwork was moved from its original site to the Ty’r Orsaf police station and coated in resin to conserve the work.
While Brandler has promised to uphold his agreement to keep Season’s Greetings in the Welsh city for at least a few years, it is now unclear what his plans are for the work once the air clears and that day comes.