Three years after the last criminal left Reading Prison, it’s reopening the venue for an art installation that honors its most famous inmate: Oscar Wilde. He was incarcerated in 1895 for two years of hard labour. His sentence? “Gross indecency with other men.”
It was a devastating time for Wilde, England and the arts at large. Many attribute Wilde’s death in 1900 to his time spent in Reading Prison. The exhibit Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison focuses on this tragedy, as well as themes of isolation and imprisonment. Some of the featured artists include Ai Weiwei, Wolfgang Tillmans, Marlene Dumas and Patti Smith.
Known for her work and support of the LGBTQ community, Nan Goldin will be showing new work at the Reading Prison exhibit. “The Boy” covers the wall of a cell with images of her long-time muse Clemens Schick.
In another cell, she’s created a video installation that has to be viewed through a tiny peephole. Clips from an hand-tinted film production of Wilde’s Saloméa is shown with a film of a young boy discussing the dangers of being gay in Kiev and a 91-year-old man who was also convicted in England for homosexual offences.
Artangel, the organization responsible for Inside says, “This exhibition brings together that which Wilde’s final works so eloquently delineated: the pain of separation, the excruciatingly slow passage of time, betrayal, redemption, and love.” It’s an exciting project for charity-supported initiative that made The Times ask, “Has Artangel done more for British art than the Tate Modern?”