Welsh Banksy fan tried to destroy £500,000 artwork

Welsh Banksy fan tried to destroy £500,000 artwork to stop it being bought by a rich English collector

  • Michael Thomas, 42, tried to destroy Banksy artwork in Port Talbort, south Wales
  • Artwork first appeared on two walls of a garage in the Taibach area in 2018 
  • Sold to John Brandler, who owns Brandler Galleries in Essex, for ‘six-figure sum’ 
  • Thomas given a 14-month suspended prison sentence suspended for two years 

A Banksy fan attempted to destroy a £500,000 piece of artwork by the secretive street artist to stop it being bought by a collector in England.

Michael Thomas, 42, tried to smash his way into the temporary building housing the famous artwork in Port Talbort, south Wales, in order to spray it with white paint.

The artwork, which shows a child playing in the falling ash and smoke from a fire in a skip, first appeared on two walls of a garage in the Taibach area in 2018.

However a year later it was sold to John Brandler, who owns Brandler Galleries in Essex, for a ‘six-figure sum’ and moved to a new location in Ty’r Orsaf, where people could view it through the glass.

Mr Brandler agreed the mural could be kept in Port Talbot for a minimum of two years before it was moved. 

It is understood that the artwork was set to be moved to England or even the US but Thomas said he was angry that the public work of art had been sold and would be moved from the area.  

The Banksy artwork shows a child playing in the falling ash and first appeared on two walls of a garage in the Taibach area in 2018

Thomas was given a 14-month prison sentence suspended for two years after admitting attempted burglary and criminal damage. 

Prosecutor Sian Cotter said: ‘Witnesses heard him saying: ”It’s the only thing in Port Talbot and they are taking it away.”

‘Thomas intended to destroy the painting so that no one else could have it.

‘A couple and their five-year-old child heard the defendant shouting: ”It’s for us. They’re taking it away, some rich man has it.”

‘Another witness heard Thomas shouting: ”I’m going to kill it.”

The court heard Thomas had attempted to break into the building housing the artwork when neighbours hearing him breaking a window at 5.30am and called the police.    

Swansea Crown Court heard the painting of a boy enjoying falling snow next to a sledge was valued at half-a-million pounds.

Port Talbot Council placed the artwork in a temporary building after it appeared on the side of a garage in 2018. 

Ms Cotter said: ‘Thomas called police to say he’d committed the damage in anger because he didn’t want the painting to leave Port Talbot.

‘He said the work was being moved to England and that made him angry so he decided to destroy it.’

Thomas tried to break a window to the building housing the famous when neighbours called the police. Pictured: Some of the damage caused to the front of the building

The artwork was sold to John Brandler, who owns Brandler Galleries in Essex, for a ‘six-figure sum’ in 2019

Jonathan Tarrant, defending, said it was more of a protest than an act of criminal intent and it was unlikely Thomas would reoffend.   

Judge Geraint Walters told Thomas: ‘There was an intention to move the Banksy artwork out of Port Talbot to the London area and that angered you.

‘It may well be that it was not Banksy’s intention that the painting should ever leave Port Talbot.

‘I am aware the decision to remove the work has caused consternation in some quarters.’

The judge said Thomas reacted bizarrely by breaking into the building with the intention of destroying the Banksy artwork.

He added: ‘This work does now belong to an individual who has had to pay for it.

‘The commercial reality is that it is a work of art of great value and now it’s in private ownership.’ 

Thomas, of Port Talbot, was ordered to pay £1,058 compensation and was given an electronic tag for 12 weeks.  

In 2018, steelworker Ian Lewis, 55, said it was like ‘Christmas had come early’ after the work appeared on the side of his garage. 

New owner Mr Brandler said he already owned several Banksy pieces, and suggested putting ‘five or six’ more of the artist’s works on public display in the Welsh town to help tourism. 

The art dealer said he had given a ‘written guarantee’ the artwork would stay in Port Talbot ‘for a minimum of two to three years’, and added: ‘If it works, it can stay longer. If it doesn’t work then I’ll move it to a different industrial city.’    

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