Brentwood Banksy collector hopes to find home for 'hula hoop girl' in new Basildon gallery
- Credit: Ken Mears
"This could be the best thing that happens to Basildon since sliced bread" says renowned Brentwood Banksy collector John Brandler who is planning a "major international attraction" at a Basildon shopping centre.
The Recorder caught up with Brandler to discuss the future of his latest purchase and his plans for the new street art gallery that he says could attract 500,000 new tourists a year.
The "hula hoop girl" would be among the Banksy works to find its forever home in Basildon, and John hopes to include work by world-famous artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst into the rolling exhibition.
After reports of a "slab of brick" being removed from a wall in Nottingham in the early hours of February 17, it was confirmed that the Banksy mural of a girl hula-hooping with a tyre had been sold for six-figure sum to John, who has 12 Banksys in his gallery, Brandler Galleries in Coptfold Road, and another 30 on loan abroad.
How is it ending up in Essex?
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First stop is Scotland, where the "hula hoop girl" has been sent to be restored.
The design first appeared on the wall of a hair salon in October last year. It was quickly confirmed as a Banksy and Nottingham City Council put a "temporary" Perspex cover over the painting to protect it.
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John explained that the centimetre or so gap between the brick and the Perspex created a "microclimate" which provides the perfect conditions for mould to grow and "eat the paint".
He added: "If I hadn't bought it and removed it, in two years' time there wouldn't have been a Banksy there at all."
Since its removal, some Nottingham residents have been up in arms about it leaving the place of its creation. John says that the Nottingham art community and the council alike were offered the opportunity to buy it, but "how could the council stand up and explain to residents that they had to cut vital services such as social care because they spent it all on a Banksy?"
Unlike the indifferent reaction to his purchase of Seasons Greetings in the Welsh town of Port Talbot in 2019, John has been receiving "vitriolic" emails from Nottingham Banksy fans vexed by its departure. He said that at the time, the people of Port Talbot maybe had less of an attachment to the artwork because "Banksy wasn't Welsh."
Nottingham City Council said it was unaware it had been sold, and that it tried to secure the work but "those options were exhausted" and so it was left to the property owner to decide what to do next.
Next stop, Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, where the mural will be on loan for an exhibition on street art, along with other big street art names such as French graffiti artist Brek le Rat.
Finally, the "hula hoop girl" is due to return to Essex in the autumn. John has another 30 on loan to a museum in Italy which are due to return and will "trickle back" to the UK.
So what's in store for it in Essex? John is currently in negotiations with Basildon's Eastgate Shopping Centre where he wants to create the sixth street art gallery in the world - a new interactive exhibition where the "hula hoop girl," Seasons Greetings and many other Banksys could stay put.
He says: "By bringing international artists, the Basildon art community will get a much much bigger audience.
"It's the quality of the art that's important. We've got this thing about local artists not being that exciting, but this idea is to put a much bigger spotlight in Basildon, which has some really good quality artists. We don't always visualise things on their own merits."
He hopes other street art would be scattered on the walls around Basildon and added that the interactive aspect of the new gallery is intended to get children interested in art.
"I don't believe in giving a load of stencils to play with for seven-year-olds, I want to give free workshops for children to make their own artwork. If in 20 years, just one out of 100 kids become interested in art, then it's worth it," he explained.
But he insists nothing has yet been signed or finalised and talks are still in the early stages, but Eastgate Shopping Centre has confirmed that they are in discussions.
Centre manager Ian Clark said: “We are exploring the opportunity to welcome an exhibition to Eastgate which could include a number of Banksy artworks.
“At this point it is only a possibility, but everyone we have mentioned it to has been very enthusiastic.
"There is a buzz about Banksy and his work so it would not only be a treat for our regular shoppers but could also attract visitors from further afield to come to Basildon.
“We will continue to investigate the idea with John Brandler and hope we will have positive news in due course.”