April 25, 2019
Art dealer who bought work claims his exhibition scheme is being thwarted by bureaucrats
Plan for Banksy art gallery in Port Talbot may be under threat
Plans to create a gallery of modern art in Port Talbot around a Banksy that appeared in the Welsh steel town are in jeopardy, it has been claimed.
John Brandler, an art dealer, bought the artwork and promised it would stay in Port Talbot for at least three years.
He planned to have the piece moved to an exhibition space in the town centre next month and was keen to bring in other works by artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin to sit alongside it.
But Brandler claims his scheme, which he believes would attract tens of thousands of visitors a year, is being thwarted by bureaucrats who have yet to agree how it should work.
He said: “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.”
Brandler said the Banksy would be moved in the next month from the steelworker’s garage where it appeared, and said he would honour his pledge to loan it to the town for three years.
But he said that unless written agreements about the wider museum idea were in his hands soon, it would not go ahead.
“The project is in jeopardy,” he said. “The loan of the Bansky will happen but the museum may not. It’s like saying to someone: ‘Here’s a pot of gold,’ and they say: ‘We don’t like the colour of the pot.’”
The Banksy, known as Season’s Greetings, appeared just before Christmas in Taibach, close to the Tata steelworks. From one angle it shows a child in a bobble hat with a sled, apparently enjoying a snow shower and trying to catch the flakes on their tongue. But from another it becomes clear that what is falling on the child is ash.
Brandler bought it from Ian Lewis, a steelworker who owns the garage, for a six-figure sum. Lewis said he had sleepless nights before selling the work. Brandler said he was now losing sleep over the gallery plan.
The piece is to be moved in one chunk and the plan is to relocate it to Ty’r Orsaf, a former police station developed into a mixed-use retail unit in the town centre.
A spokesman for Neath Port Talbot council said it had been working with Brandler, the Welsh government and the organisation that owns Ty’r Orsaf.
He said: “The first stage of that process is moving the Banksy to one of the units to secure it in the short term. A licence agreement has been proposed for this first stage and this is currently with legal advisers.
“The second step in the process will be to try and secure a longer-term proposition for a gallery with more works of art on display at the location. Work on this proposal is continuing and it is likely that a lease agreement for a longer period of time will be necessary if this phase can be brought forward to a successful conclusion.”
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