Sunday 15 September 2019

Banksy artwork ‘owner’ paying for security guards to protect mural

Steelworker Ian Lewis is ramping up security to protect the stencilled artwork but has yet to receive any bids for it.

By Adam Hale, Press Association

The owner of a garage used by Banksy as a canvas for his latest artwork is paying for a security firm to protect it from vandals.

Ian Lewis, 55, has also accepted an offer from a fan for the mural to be covered by a perspex screen while he decides what to do with the street artist’s latest work.

Mr Lewis, a steelworker at Port Talbot’s Tata Steel plant, said he has not slept properly since the artwork – which shows a child playing in the falling ash and smoke from a fire – appeared on his hand-built garage.

On Thursday he said he was paying out of his own pocket for a security team to guard the Banksy work after admitting he was struggling with the attention it has been receiving.

Mr Lewis said: “It started off as fun, but now it’s gone to stress. It’s down to not sleeping, but now I’ve got the security there it’s taken that weight off me. They will stay there indefinitely now I think.

“I’ve also got a guy who’s going to put a perspex screen around it later today. He was there taking photos and told me he’s a big fan.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this, to be honest with you. My phone is ringing, on my house phone there’s 1,000 messages on it. I’ve been down the chemist for 10 minutes and everyone’s talking to me.

“I’ve gone from an everyday steelworker to a face in the press.”

The father-of-one said he has not decided what to do with the artwork, and denied receiving any offers to sell it.

He said: “Nobody’d got in touch with me, there’s these rumours going around I’m having big offers, but nobody’s offered me anything.

“I’m really just rolling with it at the moment and I don’t know where it’s going.

“I have got someone who’s come on board and given me a bit of advice. I’m trying to get my head around it. All I’m saying is I’m not going to rush into anything.”

Banksy claimed responsibility for the new artwork on his website and Instagram account on Wednesday after it appeared on the side of Mr Lewis’s garage on Tuesday morning.

The work is Banksy’s first in Wales and is believed to be a comment on the town’s industrial heritage and pollution linked to its famous steel plant.

Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council erected metal fencing around the garage wall on Wednesday, and was consulting other councils who have experience of dealing with Banksy artworks.

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