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Banksy confirms prison-escape mural is his with Bob Ross-inspired video

Banksy has confirmed he was behind an artwork that appeared on the wall of a British jail earlier this week.

In a video posted to Instagram on Thursday, the elusive street artist is seen spray-painting the image of an inmate escaping from Reading Prison, a disused institution in southern England that once held the Irish poet Oscar Wilde.

The video, which is captioned “Create Escape,” playfully mimics TV artist Bob Ross’ cult show, “The Joy of Painting.” Shots of Banksy working in the dark of night are overdubbed with clips of Ross giving painting tips, making it appear as if he is commenting on the work.

The video did not confirm whether or not the artwork depicts Wilde, who was held at the institution, then known as Reading Gaol, for two years from 1895 after being imprisoned under a historical law against “gross indecency” used to prosecute gay men. Wilde’s 1898 poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” is a reflection on his time there.

The prison closed in 2013.

In December, Banksy confirmed that he was behind a new mural in Bristol, the English city that many believe is his hometown. The mural, which the artist dubbed “Aachoo!!,” depicts an old woman violently sneezing, her dentures shooting through the air.

Banksy has been busy during the past year, dropping a handful of pandemic-inspired works.

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

The following month, he honored health care 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 himself spray-painting an image of a rat onto a London Underground train, as he urged people to wear face masks. It was later removed by transportation authorities for violating their “strict anti-graffiti policy.”

This article has been updated to reflect Banksy’s confirmation that the work is his.

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