Bansky has pledged millions to help transform the jail that once housed Oscar Wilde.
The artist offered to raise the money to turn the Grade-II listed HMP Reading into a ‘refuge for art’.
Banksy would use the sale of a stencil used for artwork on the side of the prison to raise the funds. The stencil is currently estimated at £10 million.
The money raised from the sale would be combined with those from the Reading Borough Council, to make an offer of £12.6 million, which would hopefully rescue the building from housing developers.
Speaking of the investment, Banksy said:
I had very little interest in Reading until I was on a rail replacement bus service that went past the jail. It’s rare to find an uninterrupted 500m-long paintable surface slap bang in the middle of a town – I literally clambered over the passenger next to me to get a closer look.
Since discovering the prison, it has become a ‘passion’ project for Banksy, with the artist saying he’d wanted to ‘paint the wall even before I knew what it was’.
The artist added that Wilde’s history with the prison sold him on the idea.
Oscar Wilde is the patron saint of smashing two contrasting ideas together to create magic. Converting the place that destroyed him into a refuge for art feels so perfect we have to do it.
In March, Banksy created a mural on the side of the prison, depicting a figure, thought to be Wilde, escaping using the paper from a typewriter.
While the council said it welcomed the bid from Banksy, it had only ‘informal approaches from representatives’ of the artist. ‘The deadline for bids has passed and we are currently considering the ones we received,’ the Ministry of Justice added.
Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in Reading between 1895 and 1897, after being convicted of gross indecency. The stencil of Banksy’s artwork went on display at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery earlier this month.
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