Banksy Reading Prison

Members of the public take pictures of a mural painted by Banksy at Reading Prison on March 5, 2021 | Source: Business Insider

Banksy has Pledged to Raise Funds to Help Turn Former Prison Into an Arts Centre

One of the generation-defining modern artists and true proponent of philanthropy, Banksy is once again using his artwork to promote positivity – this time offering to raise millions to boost a bid to transform a prison into an arts centre.

The prolific artist has offered to sell a stencil to save the grade-II listed HMP Reading in the UK with hopes to turn the building into an arts centre. The artwork, believed to be valued at around A$28 million, is a stencil he used to paint a mural on the wall of the Berkshire Prison that once held Oscar Wilde.

The prison, which has been disused since 2013, is once again up for sale for over A$18 million after previous plans for developers to turn it into a block of flats fell through earlier this year.

Now back on the market, Banksy has offered to sell a stencil to fund a project to buy the building and turn it into an arts centre. The private sale of the artwork will boost a bid made by Reading Borough Council last year that was rejected by the Ministry of Justice.

Reading Prison Banksy
Reading Prison with Banksy ‘Create Escape’ mural on its wall | Source: Colossal

The bid is understood to be contingent on the site being used as an arts complex with the artist telling the UK’s Sunday Times that turning the old prison into a place to promote creativity is the right move.

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. 

The Reading Borough Council has long rallied to get the building built in 1844 transformed into an arts precinct that would celebrate its heritage. Renowned for confining Oscar Wilde for two years, the wall of the prison became the canvas for the street artists ‘Create Escape’ piece this year believed to be a nod to the famous poet.

While known for his graffiti-style murals, Banksy has only sold one stencil before making it one of his rarest art forms. Earlier this year, however, the artist sold his famous shredded piece, Love is in the bin, for A$34.3 million at Sotheby’s – almost 20 times its original price.

To read more about subversive street art, have a look at ten of Banksy’s most debatable pieces.

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