Watch Banksy Graffiti British Jail That Once Housed Oscar Wilde

Banksy decorates the walls of HM Prison Reading with a vision of Wilde escaping over the edge

1882: Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900). (Photo by Napoleon Sarony/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

British street artist Banksy has struck again, this time leaving his mark on the walls of Her Majesty’s Prison Reading, a British prison that most famously housed writer Oscar Wilde.

Rumors that it was Banksy’s graffiti started swirling earlier this week, and some of his fans noticed the Reading art is a similar style to his others. Banksy confirmed the rumors Thursday with a video on his Instagram captioned, “Create Escape.”

Banksy edited the video to be a mash-up of his work and the art world’s favorite bushy-haired folk hero, Bob Ross. The video opens like every episode of Ross’ “Joy of Painting” series, but then cuts to Banksy spray-painting the jail in the dead of night with Ross’ dulcet tones playing in the background. It’s edited so that when Banksy adds specific colors (mostly shades of white and black in this case), Ross is also talking about adding “a little titanium white” to his mixture on screen.

Banksy’s art on the jail’s weathered brick walls shows a man in vintage prisoner’s garb descending from the top of the wall on a rope, with a typewriter anchored at the bottom. It’s likely an homage to playwright and poet Oscar Wilde, who was imprisoned at HMP Reading from 1895-1897. The prison (which used to be called Reading Gaol) closed in 2014, but the building still remains, and now it’s Banksy’s latest canvas.

Wilde was imprisoned at Reading after he was found guilty of “gross indecency with other men,” a charge that came with the maximum sentence of two years of hard labor. At the time, it was illegal to be openly homosexual in England. During his imprisonment, Wilde’s health significantly declined and the sentence ultimately hastened the end of his life — he died in exile of meningitis not three years after being released.

Check out Banksy’s full video of the process outside Reading below.


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