The small Welsh industrial town that woke up to a brand-new mural by Banksy last December might become the home of the UK’s first street art cultural center.
Art dealer John Brandler, who last week bought the mural from the owner of the garage on which it was painted for a reported £100,000, says he is in preliminary talks with the local city council of Port Talbot about the new art hub.
The gallerist tells artnet News that keeping the mural in town was not a condition of sale, but that he felt it was important to keep it where Banksy intended it to be. The seller, a steelworker, agreed, and turned down other offers of more money in favor of Brandler’s proposal.
“Port Talbot needs it,” Brandler says. The low-income town, famous for its steelworks, has reportedly received 20,000 visitors in the last three weeks, bringing with it a welcome boost to local businesses. Brandler says the local fish and chip shop has sold out every day since the Banksy arrived.
Brandler plans for the work to be moved from its current location to become the centerpiece of the new street art center. While the proposal has not yet been signed off by the local council, Brandler says he is in talks with local representatives and the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff about potential venues, and that he will be touring possible sites next week.
But the dealer, who has been dealing in Banksy since 2003, doesn’t want to stop there. His gallery may be more than 200 miles away in Essex, England, but Brandler says he wants to make Port Talbot a street art destination.
To make the dream a reality, Brandler has offered to lend some of his own street art works to the center. Among the two dozen pieces he owns are a couple other Banksys, and works by Pure Evil, My Dog Sighs, Conor Harrington, and Blek le rat, whose work was especially influential on Banksy’s style.
Brandler says a great deal of funding would not be necessary for the center, which would be in a council-owned building.A cafe and bookshop would help defray costs, he says.
Brandler is also in talks to earmark several council-owned walls for artists to paint, so that a “treasure hunt” trail would take people around town, leading them to local businesses and establishments. This would also create possibilities for street art tours to expand on the cottage industry that has already sprung up around the Banksy mural.
“It’s about time the UK gets a center for street art to be exhibited in a professional setting,” Brandler says, noting that other cities, such as Paris and Berlin, already have similar institutions. The dealer, who considers street art to be an era-defining movement in the 21st century, says it is “ridiculous” that it is only considered art when Banksy does it, and that when others make similar works, it’s deemed “illegal” and destroyed.