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Port Talbot Banksy owner blames council after street art museum plans scrapped

Credit: PA Images

The owner of Banksy's Season's Greetings mural has cancelled plans to create an international street art museum in Wales following alleged disagreements with council officials.

John Brandler said a lack of co-operation and local sponsorship meant plans to house works by Banksy, Damian Hirst and Tracy Emin in a new gallery in Port Talbot have now been scrapped.

But, the council are contesting Mr Brandler's allegations saying he has not engaged in any "positive dialogue about the matter".

The Essex-based art dealer bought the mural for a 'six-figure sum' in January after it appeared on the side of a garage owned by steelworker Ian Lewis, and agreed it could remain in Port Talbot for up to three years.

Mr Brandler also claimed his plans to turn the gallery where it is being kept into an international street art museum have been frustrated by Neath Port Talbot Council.

The art dealer claimed it is because Banksy and the other artists are not Welsh.

Mr Brandler says there has been a 'lack of co-operation from officials' which the council says is not the case

The Banksy was sold by its original owner Ian Lewis to John Brandler in January 2019.

Neath Port Talbot Council said in a statement on January 8th that its priority was to 'preserve and protect' the 'exciting example of modern urban art'.

In one of his first interviews after the sale was confirmed, Mr Brandler said the Banksy would stay in Port Talbot.

I'm keeping it here in Port Talbot, so we can use it as a core, if you like, as a magnet to get other internationally renown street artists to exhibit work here and that will make Port Talbot a go-to place rather than a go-from place.

What I didn't want was a beautiful piece of artwork to be taken out of context.

It belongs here.

– John Brandler, speaking in January 2019.

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They asked me 'What artists would you be using?', and I said 'Damian Hirst, Banksy, Tracy Emin, that sort of thing'.

(They said) 'No, they're not Welsh.'

I said 'This is going to be an international museum of street art, this is going to make you world-famous.

– John Brandler, owner of Port Talbot Banksy

At the end of May, Mr Brandler again promised to build a museum that he said would attract 150,000 people a year to the town, making it the sixth international museum for street art after ones in New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Munich.

The video below shows the day the Banksy artwork was moved from the garage it was spray-painted on into a new home in the town.

Mr Brandler said the council only provided him with a signed contract to keep the piece at its new home in the Ty'r Orsfaf gallery while it was being moved last month, and for only a third of the agreed space, preventing him from bringing £10 million worth of other pieces to join it.

He also criticised the council for not erecting any signs to advertise that the mural was on public display.

"They're looking for excuses for it not to happen. If Port Talbot doesn't want it, I'm not going to put myself in an early grave to force something on a town", he said.

The council however argue that since Mr Brandler announced his plans for a street art museum, he has "failed to provide any further information on how it would be paid for or run".

“Despite publicly announcing his proposal for a street art museum several months ago, Mr Brandler has so far failed to provide any further information on how it would be paid for or run", a spokesperson for Neath Port Talbot Council told ITV News.

When the Banksy appeared in Port Talbot, it attracted thousands of people to the area

“The Council has repeatedly sought to work with Mr Brandler to help him develop his initial idea into a realistic proposal."

They added Mr Brandler has been "reluctant to engage in any positive dialogue on the matter" and therefore has been "difficult to make further progress or to create a proposal from his idea that would stand up to scrutiny."