Reading Jail: Artists respond to works of Oscar Wilde for new major exhibition

HM Reading Prison will be open to the public for the very first time for an exhibition where artists, writers and performers will respond to the works of one of its most notorious inmates, Oscar Wilde who was incarcerated there between 1895 and 1897 and wrote about his experience in his poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

A piece of artwork by French artist Jean-Michel Pancin which replicates the original door and exact dimensions of the prison cell of author Oscar Wilde when he was incarcerated in Reading prisonJustin Tallis/ AFP
A picture of Oscar Wilde hangs inside a cellDan Kitwood/ Getty Images
General view inside the former Reading prison buildingDan Kitwood/ Getty Images

Curated by Artangel, the project, titled 'Inside - Artists and Writers in Reading Prison' will see the works of leading artists like Nan Goldin, Marlene Dumas and Steve McQueen go on display within the prison walls. Plans and prints will also be exhibited in relation to The Separate System, a form of prison management based on the concept of keeping prisoners in solitary confinement, along with late 19th century mugshots of inmates. Work by Rita Donagh, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Richard Hamilton will also be exhibited. Writers such as Ai Weiei and Tahmima Anam will also compose letters from their own or imagined experience of state-imposed separation from loved ones. Every Sunday, the prison chapel will host performers and writers including Patti Smith, Ralph Fiennes and Ragnar Kjartanasson will read the whole of De Profundis- written by Wilde during his time inside his cell C.3.3.

A visitor looks at former inmate Oscar Wilde's prison cell door in the prison ChapelDan Kitwood/ Getty Images
Former inmate Oscar Wilde's prison cell door is exhibited in the prison ChapelDan Kitwood/ Getty Images
An piece of artwork titled 'The Winter' 2016 by Steve McQueen stands in a cellJustin Tallis/ AFP
A piece of artwork by Colombian-born sculptor Doris Salcedo is exhibited in a prison cellDan Kitwood/ Getty Images
A piece of artwork by Colombian-born sculptor Doris Salcedo is exhibited in a prison cellDan Kitwood/ Getty Images
Photographs of former prisoners are displayed at the former Reading prison buildingDan Kitwood/ Getty Images

"Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison will offer the public an opportunity to reflect, in a particularly powerful place, on the implications for the individual when separated from society by the state. It is also a great opportunity for Artangel to work with key cultural partners on the first phase of Reading International, a new three-year arts initiative led by the University of Reading." James Lingwood and Michael Morris, Co-Directors of Artangel explained. The exhibition opens on 4 September and goes on until 30 October 2016.

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The prison cell of author Oscar WildeJustin Tallis/ AFP
Copies of books by author Oscar Wilde sit on a shelf in a cellJustin Tallis/ AFP
Copies of books read by former inmate Oscar WildeEddie Keogh/Reuters
View out of the cell window of former inmate Oscar WildeDan Kitwood/ Getty Images
General view inside the former Reading prison buildingDan Kitwood/ Getty Images
Exterior view of the former Reading prison buildingDan Kitwood/ Getty Images
A cross is seen above a cell doorDan Kitwood/ Getty Images
General view inside the former Reading prison buildingDan Kitwood/ Getty Images
General view inside the former Reading prison buildingDan Kitwood/ Getty Images

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