A Banksy mural which first appeared in the industrial town of Port Talbot in South Wales in December 2018 was today removed from view and is due to be put into storage. The work’s fate now hangs in the balance after plans to display it at the University of Suffolk “fell through”, according to John Brandler, the dealer who paid a six-figure sum for it.
Originally painted on a garage owned by local steelworker Ian Lewis, from one angle the mural appears to show a child enjoying a snow shower. From another it becomes clear that the snow is in fact ash being produced from a burning dumpster, a possible comment on the poor air quality in the area.
The work drew crowds after Banksy confirmed it as his, posting a video online along with the message “season’s greetings”. A perspex screen was later erected to protect the piece after a reported attempt to vandalise it.
The mural’s removal comes just days after the actor Michael Sheen described its display as “uninspiring”. According to the BBC, Sheen said he found it had been “quite difficult” to get to see the painting. “Everything it was hoped would come from it and inspire, and everything that would develop around it hasn’t really materialised,” he added.
Sheen, who grew up nearby, had contributed towards the security costs of protecting the mural, which was moved from Lewis’s garage to a former police station in Ty’r Orsaf—a cost borne by the Welsh government.
Brandler, who loaned the work to Neath Port Talbot council for three years, tells The Art Newspaper that the work was initially shown in a building without lighting. “It took nine months of nagging to get the council to switch the lights on,” he says.
Brandler had plans to develop an urban art centre in the town, with Seasons Greetings and another Banksy mural, Hula Hoop Girl, at its centre, but talks with local officials stalled. “I was told 'Banksy isn’t Welsh’,” the dealer says. “I feel sorry for the people of Port Talbot. It’s the local coffee shop, the local sticky bun shop, the local hotel—everybody would have benefited from the tourism.”
However, costs for the potential future display of the work appear to have been a sticking point for the local council. In a statement issued last November, council leader Ted Latham said: “Discussions were held on future arrangements and the potential for the work to remain in Port Talbot, but the council was informed that it would have to meet the costs of its removal and installation into a new venue, to continue to cover the insurance and to pay a fee in the region of £100,000 per year for the loan of the work. It has been estimated the cost of removal and relocation to another venue (even without insurance to cover the operation to move it) of Season’s Greetings would be around £50,000.”
Brandler says a recent proposal to display the work at the University of Suffolk fell through due to a “misunderstanding” over “logistics”. The university did not respond to requests for comment. Brandler adds: “At the moment I’m looking to find a home for it. Art is for being seen. It’s not for being shoved in a building with the light switched off. And it’s not for being shoved in a warehouse.”