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Bansky Inspires Art Dealer to Open Street Art Centre in Industrial Welsh Town

The Welsh industrial town of Port Talbot, famed for its steelworks, could become a destination for fans of Banksy’s work.

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The town that woke up to a brand-new mural by Banksy last December might become the home of the UK’s first street art centre. According to Art Net, art dealer John Brandler, who last week bought Banksy’s mural from the owner of the garage on which it was spray painted for a reported £100,000, says he is in preliminary talks with the local city council about the new art hub.

The gallerist tells 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 claims. The low-income town 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, 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 doesn’t want to stop there. His gallery may be more than 200 miles away, 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, 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 local 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 produce similar works, it’s deemed “illegal” and destroyed.

About Banksy

Banksy is a British street artist and activist who has managed to maintain an anonymous identity despite his international fame. The artist often targets established social and political agendas with his witty illustrations produced with stencils and spray paint in cities such as New Orleans, New York, and Paris. “The art world is the biggest joke,” he said. “It’s a rest home of the overprivileged, the pretentious, and the weak.”

Although details of the artist’s life are largely unknown, it is thought that Banksy was born in Bristol, UK, c. 1974, starting his career as a graffiti artist in the city. Better Out Than In, Banksy’s month-long residency in New York during October 2013, featured a man hawking the artist’s paintings for $60 a piece outside Central Park.

In 2015, Banksy opened Dismaland Bemusement Park, a temporary art exhibition that functioned as a theme park. After a 36-day run, its workers and materials were sent to the Calais Jungle to build additional housing. Despite the artist’s aversion to the art world, he continues to produce works on canvas as well as prints, posters, and T-shirts.

The question as to who Banksy hit headlines in 2017 when Robert Del Naja, singer in the band Massive Attack, was falsely rumored to be Banksy. The artist’s style and use of cultural appropriation has given rise to a number of other street artists, including French artist Mr. Brainwash and Alec Monopoly. Banksy continues to live and work in the UK (so far as we know).