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Banksy, Season’s Greetings (2018)
Banksy, Season’s Greetings (2018)

A Banksy fan has been sentenced for trying to destroy a £500,000 artwork

The man objected to the graffiti artist’s Port Talbot artwork, Season’s Greetings, leaving the town following its sale for six figures in 2019

All the way back in December 2018, Banksy unveiled a new artwork in his signature stencilled style, sprayed on the side of a garage in the Welsh town of Port Talbot. Titled Season’s Greetings, the image depicted a kid catching snow on his tongue, which actually turns out to be ash from a bin fire around the corner (a commentary on the area’s harmful heavy industry).

Almost immediately, Season’s Greetings drew huge crowds to the residential area where it was installed, as well as vandals who tried to chip bits off the wall. Now, a man has also been sentenced following an attempt to whitewash the £500,000 installation.

The painting — and its popularity — previously had an unfortunate effect on the owner of the garage where it was installed, a steelworker named Ian Lewis. In January 2019, Lewis admitted that his life had been “in freefall” since its installation, adding: “It's been very, very stressful and very surreal.”

Thankfully, Lewis sold Season’s Greetings for a six-figure sum later that month, to an Essex-based Banksy aficionado who relocated it for public viewing. The only condition was that it stayed in Port Talbot for a minimum of two to three years.

When that term was up in 2020, however, the painting caused controversy once again. More specifically, on November 26 that year, a 42-year-old man named Michael Thomas tried to break into the Port Talbot building where it was housed, after hearing that it would be moving out of the town.

As reported by the BBC, Thomas intended to spray Season’s Greetings with white paint, to protest its scheduled move out of Wales. As prosecutor Sian Cotter tells Swansea Crown Court, neighbours called the police after hearing Thomas break a window at 5.30am. “Witnesses heard him saying, ‘It’s the only thing in Port Talbot and they are taking it away’,” Cotter says. “Thomas intended to destroy the painting so no one else could have it.”

A couple and their five-year-old child also reportedly heard the defendant shouting: “It’s for us. They’re taking it away, some rich man has it.” Another witness heard him claim: “I’m going to kill it.”

The judge presiding over the case acknowledged the “consternation” caused by the decision to move Season’s Greetings out of Port Talbot. Nevertheless, Thomas’ reaction was deemed “bizarre”, and he has been given a 14-month suspended prison sentence, and is ordered to pay compensation of £1,058.

Of course, if Thomas had succeeded, it wouldn’t be the first time a Banksy was deliberately destroyed. Last year, actor Christopher Walken also took a pot of paint to an original Banksy, while filming a BBC comedy-drama series set in Bristol. 

In 2018, Banksy himself famously destroyed his iconic artwork Girl With Balloon the moment it sold at auction for more than £1 million. As expected, the stunt only increased the value, with the artwork fetching a record-breaking £18.6 million when it returned to auction in 2021.