I got to know Banksy, unknowingly, behind the Nelson supermarket a few years ago in Nelson. I had talked about it at the time, on the blog, without knowing that it was the big star of the street arts. I learned it last year, a little by chance, seeing circulating on the canvas, his mural, Trolley hunters. The artist from Bristol lives incognito and is inspired by the French, Blek the rat, considered as one of the pioneers of the street arts. I have been working since, because I was absolutely fascinated by Nelson’s mural (a copy, of course). What was my surprise and joy when I learned, during my stay at Tenby, that he was responsible for the mural that mysteriously appeared on the walls of a garage in Port Talbot (near Swansea). We intended to spend a few days in Swansea before returning to Nelson, which would give me the unique opportunity to see one of his original works with my own eyes. I was immediately amazed at the subtlety of her work. In fact, we first see, on one of the walls of the garage, a little boy who seems marveled in the dark night where small white flakes fall. When we look at the other wall, we realize that the blackness and the white flakes come from a cloud of pollution caused by the chimneys making steel (we see also the chimney in the distance, behind the garage ).
Port Talbot is an industrial city that has been the center of steelmaking in Wales for many years, but has been suffering from Chinese competition for some years. In fact, the workers had to resign themselves to accepting retirement pensions that were much less generous than those promised to them. Banksy’s genius lies in the choice of location, while the effects of industrialization on the regional populations are seen from the economic point of view as well as from the point of view of physical and psychological health.
Trouble, however, did not take long to appear in the small town of Port Talbot. It was quickly feared that the mural was damaged and had to protect the mural vandals (thanks to the generosity of the actor / activist Michael Sheen) with a glass panel, a fence and a security guard.
The garage owner quickly felt overwhelmed and made the decision to sell his garage. An art dealer from Essex bought the work and he committed to keep the mural / garage in Port-Talbot, which will be exposed soon in a mall (!). I have a lot of sympathy for the owner of the garage and I easily understand his dismay, but I can not help wondering about what will happen to this work beyond three years (why not five, or twenty-five, or a hundred, or in perpetuity?), as well as on the merits of the exhibition of a work that makes sense in the place where it was first conceived in a shopping center.
I almost did not see this work, which could have been moved before my visit, but I arrived there. To get there, you have to take the train from Swansea to Port Talbot, which is not, but really not, a tourist destination. There was hardly anyone on the train. On arrival, we must find the garage / wall asking right and left, walk a good twenty minutes in the city, where we see on the one hand the effects of industrialization and pollution on Port -Talbot, as well as the effects of the collapse of the steel industry on the population. The garage is located near a highway, at the end of a small street. Although I had to look at the mural behind the fence and the glass, I was extremely moved by this experience. In return, I could see the clouds of pollution in the distance, which can not leave indifferent.
Moreover, for those interested, Banksy himself has put a little video that shows much better what is on his Instagram account to present his latest son. This visit to Port-Talbot closed my adventures this year on a very strong moment, which I’m not about to forget.