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Could Banksy’s latest work herald a contemporary art gallery for Port Talbot?

The decision by world renowned contemporary artist Banksy to use a breeze block Port Talbot garage as the canvas for his latest outdoor masterpiece strengthens the steel town’s bid for a new National Gallery of Modern Welsh Art.

That is the view of the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Councillor Rob Jones, who says the globally viewed, newly arrived piece of guerrilla art in Taibach makes Port Talbot the perfect place for a new Welsh modern art gallery.

Plans are being drawn up for a possible new National Gallery of Contemporary Welsh art which is expected to to focus on 20th and 21st Century Welsh art. The Welsh Government is funding a feasibility study with the work being led by the National Museum Wales (NMW) and the Arts Council of Wales (ACW).

Neath Port Talbot Council has expressed an interest in housing the new gallery, if the idea is approved.

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CllrJones said: “At least one world class contemporary artist appears to view the interesting mix of peaceful hillsides alongside striking urban and industrial landscapes as a piece of art in itself.

“Port Talbot is famous of course for punching above its weight in the art of acting but there are also many other artists and talented people in Neath Port Talbot which is also very easy to arrive at thanks to its first class transport links.

“Ease of access could perhaps have been one of the many reasons Banksy may have chosen Port Talbot location for his latest work and it also underlines the ease with which people could gain access to a new art gallery here.

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“There are many interpretations of this work and the only person who truly knows its meaning is the artist.

“If it is taken as a symbol of pollution and air quality issues – we, like other authorities –  are working hard with the Welsh Government to counter and monitor pollution.

“In fact, earlier this year we were able to successfully refute the World Health Organisation’s mistaken figures which falsely labelled Port Talbot one of the UK’s ‘dirtiest towns’.

“The actual figures which the WHO re-issued after an apology, showed that despite being bisected by the M4 and hosting one of Europe’s biggest steel mills, our levels of particulate pollution were a on par with or cleaner than many other towns and cities.

“I hope the excitement over the sudden appearance of this piece of contemporary art in Port Talbot which has put the town – and Taibach – in headlines, on the web and on TV and radio right across the world, may now give us an edge when it comes to hosting a new national gallery of modern art here.”

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