Solidarity with Ian
Banksy has caused a steelworker near Swansea severe distress. Ian Lewis’ garage was the site for the mysterious street artist’s recent mural just before Christmas.
While the art world was excited to see the mostly black and white painting, which appears to be a child enjoying falling snow (when in fact they’re catching the burnt embers from fire depicted on the adjoining wall), his life has since been in “freefall”.
Around 20,000 people have turned up at his garage over Christmas, including one drunk man who attacked the art and pulled down the surrounding barriers and protective screen. “It's been very, very stressful and very surreal,” Ian, 55, told BBC. He says he’s had little help from the art world or local council to manage such a popular attraction, and since it’s shown up on private property it’s his responsibility to manage the safety of the thousands of visitors. “I just can't cope with it now, to be honest with you,” he said.
He didn’t originally know that the painting was a Banksy until the picture went viral, as soon as the word spread there were people arriving at his property to “chip bits off it”. “There was even talk that people wanted to chisel it out and take it home, they wanted to steal it.”
Lewis has found an unlikely hero in Michael Sheen – as in Frost in Frost/Nixon for highbrow readers, or Aro in Twilight for those of us who watch trash. The Welsh actor has helped him pay for protection and said his “biggest concern was for Ian”.
“It’s been a really stressful thing for him and it's put a lot of financial burden on him that nobody else at the moment is helping him with. I’ve done what I can but we need a long term solution in place,” Sheen added.
He continued: “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,” the area is home to one of the biggest steelworks in the world and the work is a protest to the pollution caused by the industry. “But Ian does need some help with this now, and I hope that it can stay in Port Talbot.”
Honestly, Ian sounds like he’s having an absolutely miserable time. He confirmed that he was “happier” before the Banksy appeared. “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.”
Welsh MPs are currently debating whether to purchase the piece and possibly move it in order to protect the artwork and keep it in Wales.
Check out the piece below.