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Is Banksy behind this prison escape mural on the wall of Reading Prison?

A work of art depicting a prisoner’s daring escape has appeared on the wall of a UK prison, prompting enthusiastic speculation that it was painted by elusive street artist Banksy.

The mural shows an inmate escaping from Reading Prison, a disused institution in southern England that once housed Irish poet Oscar Wilde.

His style matches the work of the most enigmatic star in street art, but nothing has yet confirmed that Banksy is behind it.

The mysterious work probably represents Wilde, suspended above the prison wall on sheets of his typewriter.

He was held at the institution, then known as Reading Gaol, for two years from 1895, after being jailed under a landmark law against “gross indecency” used to prosecute homosexuals. Wilde’s 1898 poem “The Reading Prison Ballad” is a reflection on his time there.

The prison closed in 2013.

In December, Banksy confirmed he was behind a new mural in Bristol, the English city many believe to be his hometown.

The mural appeared at Reading Prison on Monday. Credit: Nigel Keene / ProSportsImages / Shutterstock

The mural, which the artist nicknamed “Aachoo !!”, shows an old woman sneezing violently, her dentures flying through the air.

Banksy confirmed the work to be his on his Instagram page, the usual forum he checks for artwork. No other work has been verified since.

But it has been busy for the past year, dropping a handful of works inspired by the pandemic.

In April, he posted a series of images on Instagram showing graffiti rioting rats around his bathroom. In a nod to those adjusting their lifestyle because of Covid-19, the artist added the caption: “My wife hates it when I work from home.”

The following month, he paid tribute to healthcare workers with an image titled “Game Changer,” which featured a child playing with a nurse doll wearing a mask and cape.

And in July, the artist posted an Instagram video showing he was spray painting an image of a rat on a London Underground train, as he urged people to wear face masks. It was later removed by transport authorities for violating their “strict anti-graffiti policy”.


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