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Port Talbot Banksy owner 'saddened' by council's public display plans

Credit: PA

The owner of Banksy's first artwork in Wales has criticised a council's plans to put it on public view for just 12 hours after being locked away for seven months.

The Season's Greetings mural, which shows a child dressed for snow playing in the falling ash and smoke from a skip fire, has been kept from public view since it was cut from the side of a steelworker's garage in Port Talbot in May.

Art dealer John Brandler, who bought the piece for a six-figure sum, said he was "saddened" that Neath Port Talbot Council had only given the public a 48-hour notice the piece would be put on public display for 12 hours between Wednesday and Friday this week.

Credit: PA

When are people going to come and look at this?

I'm pleased it's being opened to the public, but why do it on a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday? Why not a Saturday or Sunday?

I'm so saddened by the whole thing. It should have been an amazing opportunity for the town.

I think this is being used as an excuse, that the authorities say 'We opened it to the public but only X people came, so there is no point in opening a museum'.

– John Brandler, Art dealer

Essex-based Mr Brandler criticised the exhibit only being open between 11am and 3pm, saying most workers and children in school would miss out, and said he had not been invited by the council to the opening.

He had agreed for the piece to stay in an unused Ty'r Orsaf building in Port Talbot for up to three years so it could be viewed by locals and attract art fans from across the country.

John Brandler bought the piece for a six-figure sum. Credit: PA

He previously said his plans to turn the space into an international street art museum featuring other pieces in his collection had been frustrated by the council.

The mural was covered in resin and cut from the wall of a garage owned by steelworker Ian Lewis in the Taibach area of Port Talbot, before being loaded onto the back of a lorry and escorted by police to its current location.

Neath Port Talbot Council say they the opening has not not been widely promoted because they wanted to keep numbers "manageable."

Whilst there has not been significant advertising, there is already considerable media interest and we are anticipating many people in the community will take up the opportunity to come along and view the Banksy.

The Council is working with a local community group and street artists to ascertain if there is a possibility of identifying locations in Port Talbot to display street art, as well as an annual festival associated with the contemporary art hub.

We are still preparing a business case for a contemporary art hub in Port Talbot which we are hoping will be submitted to the Welsh Government to complement their contemporary art proposals for Wales.

We are keen to progress with a contemporary art hub in Port Talbot but clearly the Council does not have the resources to deliver this on its own. Therefore as part of our business proposals we are looking to partners such as the Welsh Government and the Arts Council of Wales to support us in funding and operating such a hub.

It should also be remembered that the Banksy artwork is in private ownership and not the responsibility of the Council.

– Neath Port Talbot Council spokesperson