There is a certain culture related to Banksy built over the years - a piece in his style shows up on the streets; the media speculates about whether it is indeed a Banksy or not; sometimes they're wrong, yet sometimes, like in this case, they are absolutely right.
For the past few days, the image of a stencil of a prisoner escaping created on the wall of a prison has been circulating the internet, with Banksy finally confirming he did it by traditionally posting the work on his official Instagram and website. This time, however, the way the elusive street artist has announced the ownership of the artwork is a bit peculiar, yet humorous and cheeky in a way we would expect.
As we now know, on March 1, 2021 Banksy visited the high brick walls of HM Prison in Reading, UK, formerly known as Reading Gaol, and painted a black-and-white stencil image of a prisoner trying to escape by by hanging onto a tied set of bedsheets. At the end of his "rope" is an old typewriter, making us think that the image is an homage to Oscar Wilde, who was once imprisoned at this very jail between 1895 and 1897. His experience was immortalized in his poem titled "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," written after he was convicted for being gay.
In an almost-three-minutes-long video posted by Banksy, we see the artist's process behind the creation of the piece titled Create Escape. It starts with the opening credits of Bob Ross's famous show "The Joy of Painting," which Banksy "hijacks." As Bob Ross asks "Got all your materials out? Ready to do a fantastic painting with me?," we see Banksy's preparations for the act: he's preparing the paint, the ladder, and the stencil frame, working in pitch dark with only a headlight helping him to see.
Bob Ross's voice continues to narrate the story throughout the video, while Banksy matches the instructions he gives.
The end of the video gives an overview of the prison complex, with two policemen looking at the finished stencil in what is now a broad daylight. The footage is accompanied by Bob Ross chuckling and saying "That really is the fun part of this whole technique!"
As always, what Banksy does always has a point.
The Reading Prison has been derelict since 2013 and was put up for sale by the British government in 2019. Because it is a Grade II-listed building, the deal fell through in 2020. Ever since, calls have been made to turn the space into a permanent arts venue, rather than being sold for housing. In 2016, the building hosted exhibitions as part of the town's Year of Culture program. Many famous actors, including Stephen Fry, Natalie Dormer, and Dame Judi Dench, have backed the campaign, and are now being joined by Banksy himself.
Needless to say that the People - and the Council - of Reading are beyond excited to have a Banksy on their walls.
[UPDATE March 16, 2021] As we expected, Banksy's Reading Prison mural was vandalized, mere weeks after it was created. The stencil was defaced with red paint covering the typewriter, with the phrase “Team Robbo” below.
This is believed to be a reference to King Robbo, an artist with whom Banksy had a feud from 2009, when Banksy painted over one of King Robbo’s tags by Regent’s Canal in Camden, to 2014, when King Robbo passed away.
A sad morning as we learn that the #Banksy #mural on the side of #ReadingGaol— Save Reading Gaol (@SaveReadingGaol) March 16, 2021
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
Featured image: Banksy on the Reading Prison. Screenshot.