More than 30 artists, writers and performers will take over Reading jail to honour one of its most famous residents, Oscar Wilde
Ai Weiwei and Patti Smith have joined a host of other artists for a major new art project at Reading prison. Brought together by Artangel, a London arts organisation known for its challenging installations in unexpected places, 30 artists, writers and performers will exhibit work at the notorious prison where writer Oscar Wilde spent two years in the 1890s for homosexuality.
The exhibit will explore themes of imprisonment and separation, the prison space and Wilde’s own work across two months in the English jail, where Wilde was imprisoned at the height of his fame as a ‘sodomite’. “I think for many people it will be a kind of pilgrimage,” Jamie Lingwood, the co-director of Artangel, told the Guardian. “Wilde seems to speak to so many people in so many different ways.”
“It’s the closest we have ever come to doing an Artangel exhibition,” co-director Michael Morris said. “We are really excited about it.”
Across every Sunday in September and October, performers including Patti Smith, Maxine Peake and Ralph Fiennes will individually recite De Profundis in the prison chapel. The work is Wilde’s long, harrowing letter written to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas.
Ai Weiwei, whose piece S.A.C.R.E.D. illustrates his experience of solitary confinement during an 81-day prison sentence through six 3D scenes, will also pen a prison letter. Jeanette Winterson, Deborah Levy and Anne Carson will also write letters to mirror that of Wilde’s.
Wolfgang Tillmans and Nan Goldin will also create new works to be exhibited in the prison, alongside Tate retrospective-honoured painter Marlene Dumas and filmmaker Steve McQueen, who will show an installation from within the cells.
Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison by Artangel will show September 4–October 30