A Banksy mural is to be removed from its home in Wales and taken to a secure location after attempts by “fanatics” to damage the artwork.
Season’s Greetings drew plenty of attention when it first appeared on the outside of a steelworker’s private garage in Taibach, Port Talbot, in December 2018 and eventually had to be fenced off.
It depicts a message about the impact of pollution on communities and at first glance shows a child appearing to play in the snow.
The mural was bought by art dealer John Brandler, who agreed to keep the piece in the south Wales town for three years.
The Welsh Government later paid to move it to an unoccupied shop in Ty’r Orsaf so it could be viewed by the public.
On Tuesday, it will be transported to a temporary storage facility, before being loaned to a cultural institution which will put it on display to the public, while its long-term future is secured.
Mr Brandler said: “Since Season’s Greetings appeared three years ago, fanatics have tried to destroy this amazing piece of art.
“We’re moving it to preserve it for future generations, where it can be seen and enjoyed, but not vandalised.”
The mock Christmas scene was created using stencils and spray paint and features a dumpster fire next to a child with a sledge who is trying to catch falling snow on their tongue.
However, the other wall reveals it is actually falling ash and smoke from a skip fire – thought to be a comment on pollution from the industrial town’s steelworks.
The mysterious street artist confirmed the mural was his when he posted a video of it to his millions of followers, along with the message “season’s greetings”.
Neath Port Talbot Council claimed it had failed in its attempts to keep the work in the town and that it would cost them £100,000 a year to loan it from Mr Brandler.
Last November, council leader Ted Latham issued a statement to “set the record straight” over the impending departure of the mural.
He said he was told the artwork would be moved to an exhibition in Peterborough, adding: “Discussions were held on future arrangements and the potential for the work to remain in Port Talbot, but the council was informed that it would have to meet the costs of its removal and installation into a new venue, to continue to cover the insurance and to pay a fee in the region of £100,000 per year for the loan of the work.
“It has been estimated the cost of removal and relocation to another venue (even without insurance to cover the operation to move it) of Season’s Greetings would be around £50,000.”
The move has been called a “missed opportunity” to revitalise the town by some, including Hollywood actor Michael Sheen, who criticised the extraction of art from Wales into England.
Sheen, who grew up nearby, previously contributed towards the security costs of protecting the artwork.
The artwork will be extracted in one piece after being encased in a bespoke protective shell by Egg, the design company managing the logistics for the move.
The Banksy Preservation Society aims to raise money through exclusive Banksy NFT Art drops to fund the preservation of Season’s Greetings and other works and ensure it will be on display to the public in the future.