Banksy artwork on Welshman’s garage draws 20,000 visitors, leaves him in ‘freefall’
Banksy’s mural in Wales went viral after appearing just before Christmas. (Flickr: DJ Leekee/Lee Smith)
The owner of a garage that became a canvas for Banksy’s latest artwork says he “can’t cope” with the attention it has brought to his suburban street.
- Owner Ian Lewis said he was happier before the painting appeared
- Mr Lewis has suggested the Government move the mural
- Actor Michael Sheen paid for a security guard to protect the artwork
The artwork appeared on Ian Lewis’s garage in the Welsh town of Port Talbot just before Christmas.
But Mr Lewis has told the BBC he has been in “freefall” ever since and is struggling to keep up with the thousands of people visiting the mural every day.
It is understood about 20,000 people visited the artwork over the Christmas break, according to the BBC.
“It’s just all been so much for me. I’m actually managing an arts attraction by myself,” Mr Lewis told the BBC.
“I’ve been stressed, it’s dropped a bomb on me. I’d just like a bit of normality back into my life, like it used to be.”
Council workers have put metal fencing around the garage and plastic sheeting has been put over the artwork after visitors tried to chip pieces off it.
Actor Michael Sheen paid for a security guard to look after the mural over the Christmas break.
“I was happier I think before it happened. I just don’t know where I’m going with this,” Mr Lewis said.
The preservation of the mysterious artist’s public art has long been an issue.
In 2015 a Banksy work was destroyed in Melbourne when builders smashed a hole in a wall to make pipes for a new cafe.
A year later, a Banksy mural in the UK mocking British government surveillance was removed from a wall in south-west England.
Last year, a Banksy painting shred itself to pieces the moment it was sold for almost $1.9 million at auction.
Mr Lewis said he wants the wall of the garage removed, suggesting to “the middle of the town centre maybe”.
“They can be moved, I know they can be moved. I think it would need a team of experts to move it from what I can gather,” he said.
Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford has said he had asked his Government to look into helping Mr Lewis preserve the mural.
Port Talbot, on the edge of the Swansea Bay, is home to one of the biggest steelworks in the world.
Earlier, Mr Lewis said he suspected the town was chosen because of headlines about the town’s air pollution from the steelworks.
But in May, the World Health Organisation apologised after it admitted that figures identifying Port Talbot as the most polluted town in the UK were wrong.
Still, black dust from the town’s steelworks covered houses, cars and pets in July, a possible inspiration for the artwork.