After being kept under lock and key for seven months, Banksy’s Season’s Greetings went on display last week at the Ty’r Orsaf building in Port Talbot, Wales, with the council under fire for the organisation and scheduling of the exhibition.
Banksy’s eye-catching mural going on display, in what should have been a festive gesture, has not been well-received. Local residents and art lovers from further afield were given a mere 48 hour’s notice before Season’s Greetings went on display. This was the first time the public had been able to view the art work since the 4.5 tonne mural was removed from steelworker Ian Lewis’ property in May.
The short-notice announcement wasn’t the only problem in many people’s opinion, the limited opening hours available to view the mural – 11am-3pm, Wednesday to Friday – amounting to a total of 12 hours, when many who would have liked to see the mural would either be at work or at school.
Season’s Greetings depicts a young boy wrapped up warm, sticking his tongue out to catch the ash falling like snow from the skip fire beside him. When the mural was still on Lewis’ property it attracted tens of thousands of visitors, with 24 hour security being employed, and souvenirs being sold. The potential industry for the town seemed exponential.
Paul Jenkins, a documentary maker making a film about the mural and the Port Talbot’s response to it, told The Guardian at the empty Ty’r Orsaf building: “I love the piece…But in here it does seem a bit like a caged beast taken out of the wild.”
Nigel Hunt, a Plaid Cymru councillor, told The Guardian he felt the failing was the responsibility of the Labour-controlled. “Some of them are like characters from Charles Dickens. We had the global spotlight on us. This is a modern masterpiece and Banksy chose us to be part of the narrative. So much more could have been done,” he said.
The mural was bought for a six-figure sum by art dealer John Brandler under the condition it would remain in the town for a minimum of three years to enable to the area to shine, and to attract visitors from near and far to the town. But Brandler said he was “saddened” to find this has not been the case.
The area is notoriously short of resources, which is reflected by the limited opening hours to visit the piece due to security costs, and the gallery space not having been painted. As Street Artist Craig Jenkins relayed to The Guardian, “It’s understandable in a town that has been hit by austerity and where they can hardly pay for Christmas lights. I hope in the end we’ll be able to do something cool here.”
This was echoed by councillor Annette Wingrave who said, “With security, staffing and other costs, the council cannot do this alone but it is hoped that working with others, we can come up with a solution.”
Thanks to the public outcry however, there are plans for a more permanent display, with the potential to create a gallery around the art work, as had been the original plans of Brandler, who said those intentions had previously been “frustrated” by the council.