While you’d think a local shop owner might welcome graffiti by a world-famous street artist, according to this steelworker it’s far more trouble than it’s worth. Last week, the most recent piece by the mysterious graffiti artist Banksy appeared on the side of steelworker Ian Lewis’s garage in Port Talbot, Wales. The mural depicts a little boy with arms outstretched and tongue out, appearing to taste the falling snow. It has since attracted thousands of onlookers and turned Lewis into a reluctant art curator.
“I didn’t know at the beginning it was a Banksy,” he told BBC Wales. “I just thought it was a fantastic bit of artwork and I was going to cover it and protect it and keep it for myself.” Now, however, “It’s been very, very stressful and very surreal. It’s all been so much for me. I’m actually managing an arts attraction by myself.”
According to Lewis, the mural attracts over 1,000 people a day, and if not for actor Michael Sheen offering to pay for security over Christmas, he would have already lost the painting to vandalism or theft. Indeed, people have been trying to chisel parts of it away or steal it entirely. Although it was covered in a protective plastic sheet before Christmas, the painting has still been targeted several times.
Strangely enough, even though the mural was not solicited since it’s on private property, it is nonetheless Lewis’s responsibility to keep it safe. Understandably fed up with being its caretaker, Lewis believes the mural should be moved to a safer area with appropriate security. “It needs to be put in the middle of the town center maybe,” he said. “I think that the Assembly should step in and take over, because it is an arts treasure, and it’s just too much for me.”
Sheen, who has been assisting Lewis financially with costs associated with the mural, said of the mural, “It’s wonderful that it’s there, and it’s great that Banksy came and did this and has drawn attention to Port Talbot in this way. But Ian does need some help with this now.”
The Welsh Government is currently looking into various options for protecting the artwork. In the meantime, however, Lewis wishes the work of art never landed on his doorstep. “If I could turn back the clock,” he said, “then no, I was happier I think before it happened.”
H/T: BBC News
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