Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind a campaign to turn a former prison in the English town of Reading into an arts venue, a town spokesman said on Thursday, after the street artist confirmed that artwork that appeared on a red brick wall of the prison was of his making.
The elusive artist confirmed the picture was his when he posted a video of him creating it on his Instagram account. The monochrome picture shows a man escaping using a rope made of paper from a typewriter. It appeared Monday outside Reading Prison, famous as the location where writer Oscar Wilde served two years for “gross indecency” in the 1890s.
The prison closed in 2013, and campaigners want it turned into an arts venue. Britain’s Ministry of Justice, which owns the building, is due to decide mid-March on its future.
In his Instagram video, Banksy is shown stealthily stenciling and spraying paint to create the artwork, titled “Create Escape.” The footage is juxtaposed with an episode of a traditional art instruction video called “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.”
The campaign to turn the former prison into an arts venue has won the backing of actors including Judi Dench, Stephen Fry and Kenneth Branagh.
A spokesman for Reading Borough Council said it was “thrilled that Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind the council’s desire to transform the vacant Reading Gaol into a beacon of arts, heritage and culture with this piece of artwork he has aptly called ‘Create Escape’.”
“The Council is pushing the Ministry of Justice, who own the site, to make suitable arrangements to protect the image,” the authority said.
An expert on Banksy and the vice-chancellor of Arts University Professor Paul Gough had reportedly told BBC that the artwork’s quality seems like done by someone who is very adept at painting up a scaffold in the middle of the night without being detected. Calling the art a very compelling piece, Gough also said that the art might be Banksy’s way to lend his support for the idea of turning the former prison into the arts centre.
The playwright Wilde was incarcerated in the prison between 1895 and 1897 due to indecency charges after Sir John Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry had been involved in a feud with Wilde over the latter’s intimate involvement with him amid a time when homosexuality was a taboo and seen as crimes in then UK.
Banksy’s last art work had appeared on the side of a semi-detached house in Totterdown in Bristol, which was titled “Aachoo!!” and pictures a woman in a headscarf sneezing so loud that it makes her dentures fly into the air.
(With inputs from AP)