An artwork by acclaimed anonymous street artist Banksy that had appeared on a wall of the Reading Prison in London earlier this month has been defaced and sprayed upon with the name of the artist’s old rival Robbo. The mural that shows a prisoner during mid-escape, dangling on a rope made out of bedcovers tied to a typewriter, possibly resembles Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, who was famously housed in the former prison and had also written one of his last poems in the jail, titled Ballad of Reading Gaol. However, the wall art has now been painted over and the words ‘Team Robbo’ sprayed on the lower side of the mural, covering the typewriter.
The BBC reported that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) were contacted who said that they have learnt of the situation but won’t be commenting on it. The MoJ owns Reading Prison.
The Save Reading Gaol campaign group posted a photo of the mural and called it an ‘awful news to wake up to’.
A sad morning as we learn that the #Banksy #mural on the side of #ReadingGaol has been deliberately damaged with red paint.😢 Awful news to wake up to and to realise that the failure to protect something precious to the town has left it vulnerable to destruction… 💔#Rdg pic.twitter.com/S713aESwzA
— Save Reading Gaol (@SaveReadingGaol) March 16, 2021
A local, possibly a Banksy fan was also seen trying to clean the defacing from the mural and since then, the word ‘Robbo’ has disappeared.
‘King Robbo’, born John Robertson was an English underground graffiti artist and had a long standing feud with Banksy. He died in 2014 after sustaining head injuries in an accident. The duo’s rivalry was also documented in a televised show called Graffiti Wars for Channel 4.
It had started back in 2009 when one of Robbo’s last surviving wall art pieces at the Regent’s Canal in Camden was painted over by Banksy, which the former had created in 1985. Most of his artworks on walls and London’s trains had by then been removed by authorities. Since then, the duo had been involved in several online altercations and graffiti wars.
However after Robbo’s accident, Banksy had painted over the Camden mural in black and white, replicating Robbo’s piece and adding a crown and a can of spray paint with a hazard symbol of a flame as a mark of tribute to Robbo. It was later painted over like the original one as done by other members of Team Robbo. Banksy had also included an art piece in honour of Robbo in his Dismaland exhibition in 2015 after the latter death.