The painting shows a prisoner in stripped garb escaping on a rope made of bedsheets as he repels down the wall with a typewriter. “I believe the piece is in reference to Oscar Wilde,” said John.
Banksy had not immediately claimed the painting after it appeared on the morning of March 1, 2021.
Professor Paul Gough, a Banksy expert and vice chancellors of Arts University Bournemouth, said the artwork was “pretty compelling” and its quality suggests it was done by an artist “who knows how to paint and has got a lot of practice at painting on a scaffold in the dead of night.” In other words, it has the hallmarks of Banksy.
Wilde served time in the Reading Gaol, as the prison was once known, from 1895 to 1897 over his “indecent” affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. While there, Wilde wrote, The Reading Gaol, about his stay. The poem was published under the name C.3.3, a reference to cell block C, landing 3, cell 3 where Wilde was housed. During his stay, Charles Thomas Wooldridge, 30, was hanged for murder.
The prison has been closed since 2013. A deal to sell the building to developers fell through in 2020. The Reading Council was given time to come up with financing to turn the prison into an arts complex.
‘‘In the right hands, this jail will evolve Reading into an internationally recognized historical and cultural destination,’’ said Toby Davies, the artistic director at Reading’s Rabble Theater. ‘‘Dare I say it, it looks like Banksy agrees.’’
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