The owner of a garage in Wales on which a Banksy mural appeared just before Christmas said he is overwhelmed by the number of tourists who have descended on the site to view the artwork.
“It started off as fun, but now it’s gone to stress…”, explained Ian Lewis of Taibach, Port Talbot. Lewis told reporters that over 1000 visitors flocked daily to his garage to view the mural, sometimes in the middle of the night. “It’s just all been so much for me. I’m actually managing an arts attraction by myself“, he remarked.
As the freehold owner of the garage building, Lewis is by default the legal owner of the Banksy, based on Arnold J’s decision in the 2015 High Court case The Creative Foundation v Dreamland Leisure Limited  EWHC 2556 (Ch). The local council is offering to alleviate the burden of this ownership responsibility by funding the removal, storage and relocation of the mural to a site determined via public consultation.
Banksy’s latest street art intervention stretches over both sides of the corner of the garage. One side depicts a child appearing to catch falling snow on his outstretched tongue. Around the corner on the other side of garage the source of the ‘snow’ is revealed as a blazing skip fire spewing smoke and ashes.
The work has been interpreted as a damning indictment of the dust problem created by the town’s Tata Steel steelworks. In July 2018, houses and cars in the area were buried in black dust generated by the works of which Lewis is an employee.
Initially excited by the sudden appearance of the Banksy, Lewis is tiring of the attention it has received. Local film star Michael Sheen, feted for his portrayal of Tony Blair in ‘The Queen’, said more needed to be done to support Lewis and conserve the work. Sheen has contributed toward the cost of protecting the graffiti with plastic sheeting and fencing.
The local council’s offer to fund the cost of permanently “loaning” the mural to the public is one of several offers of help Lewis is said to have received from “various organisations and politicians”. He told reporters that he is now considering all of his options.
Banksy confirmed he was the mastermind behind the work with a video on his Instagram account. Captioned ‘Season’s greetings’, the video includes footage of the piece shot close-up and pans to show the local steelworks.
Shortly after the Port Talbot Banksy appeared, local man Gary Owen claimed the work was a direct response to a message he sent the artist in August 2018. Owen said he contacted Banksy via Instagram to ask him to highlight the area’s dust problem.
“It would have to be a heck of a coincidence for him to do something in Wales for the first time on pollution when I Instagrammed him in August,” Owen marvelled.