Beyond Reading Gaol: Oscar Wilde’s artistic legacy celebrated in Reading Museum exhibition
Release Date 05 October 2017
Oscar Wilde’s creative legacy will be marked in a major new series of art events across Reading this autumn.
The Irish writer is famously linked with the town, having been imprisoned at Reading Gaol between 1895 and 1897 for ‘acts of gross indecency’. Yet Wilde’s previous connections with Reading, predating his imprisonment, tell a more nuanced story.
Now, a series of Reading International art projects will invite members of the public to rediscover and recreate Wilde’s relationship with Reading.
The projects will centre around an exhibition at Reading Museum, launching on 7 October 2017. ‘The Critic as Artist’, co-curated by Michael Bracewell and Andrew Hunt, is named after Wilde’s celebrated Aestheticism essay of 1891, in which he outlined the importance of beauty and the many-layered relationships between life, morality and art. The exhibition aims to combine substantial homage with renewed interpretation of Wildean aesthetic theory.
“Visitors to these new exhibitions will be inspired by artwork that borrows themes of freedom and overcoming social limitations from Wilde’s own writing" - Professor Susanne Clausen, University of Reading
Professor Susanne Clausen, Director of Reading International, said: “The fact that Reading ‘locked up’ Oscar Wilde is sometimes used to perpetuate the myth that this is a town bereft of culture. We hope that this exhibition, along with the Reading International project more widely, will help to explode this myth.
“Before he came here as a prisoner, Wilde was a regular and popular visitor in Reading’s cultural circles, at a time when he was at the height of his fame. Wilde’s artistic ideas are still incredibly contemporary. They promote a radical and joyous balance between seriousness, ironic play, provocation, poetry and paradox.
“Visitors to these new exhibitions will be inspired by artwork that borrows themes of freedom and overcoming social limitations from Wilde’s own writing.”
The exhibition in Reading Museum will feature works from or selected by artists including Miles Aldridge, Donna Huddleston, Linder, Katrina Palmer Malcolm McLaren and Marc Camille Chaimowicz, whose installation occupies the whole of the Museum’s Victorian Art Gallery. It is curated by contemporary art critic and writer Michael Bracewell and curator Andrew Hunt and runs until 27 January 2018.
There will also be two public workshops to create floral installations in honour of Wilde, including one by young LGBT+ individuals and allies.
On 26 October, there will be an ‘In Conversation’ event between the University of Reading Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell and Michael Bracewell to explore the exhibition and the legacy of art and pop culture in Reading. It will be followed by a panel discussion featuring leading experts on Wilde and aesthetics, led by University of Reading classicist Dr Katherine Harloe.
Councillor Sarah Hacker, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Culture, Sport and Consumer Services, said: “Oscar Wilde’s connections with Reading go far beyond his well-documented time at Reading Gaol.
“This exhibition is an exciting opportunity to discover an array of international contemporary art responding to Wildean aesthetic theory.”
‘The Critic as Artist’ comes a year after the success of ‘Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison’, the first Reading International project, organised by Artangel. This was hosted in Reading Prison – the first and only time the Prison has been opened to the public in more than 150 years, including in Wilde’s own cell. It involved contemporary art exhibits and public talks, focusing on themes of intolerance and captivity.
This was preceded by the University of Reading’s sold-out public lecture on Oscar Wilde by Stephen Fry, held at Reading Town Hall in 2015.
Three more major art projects from Reading International will also open on 7 October:
- The Rising Sun Arts Centre will host work by Stuttgart-based artist Abel Auer, titled ‘How a Black Void Replaces the White Cube and a Painting Moves from the Fine to the Performing Arts’. It connects musical influences from Auer’s hometown with the history of music in Reading exemplified by the town’s annual music festival.
- South Street Art Center will host a performance event by New York and Berlin-based artists Rochelle Goldberg, Veit Laurent Kurz, Stefan Tcherepnin and friends. This is followed by an exhibition at Jelly (see below).
- Jelly, in Broad Street, Reading, is the venue for an exhibition entitled ‘Ante Phylloxera’ by Rochelle Goldberg, Veit Laurent Kurz, Stefan Tcherepnin and friends.
- Reading Central Library hosts the launch of a six-month project ‘reading in Reading’, by David Raymond Conroy, Ghislaine Leung, Cally Spooner and Jesper List Thomsen, at Reading Library in Abbey Square. This will involve readers, library audiences and teenagers in an experimental publishing project.
ABOUT READING INTERNATIONAL
The University of Reading is leading the million-pound Reading International scheme, in coalition with a diverse group of local arts organisations and Reading Borough Council. It is backed by £495,000 of funding from Arts Council England and public funding by the National Lottery through the Arts Council’s Ambition for Excellence Programme.
Other previous Reading International events include Eggy and Seedy, which brought world-class art to a Reading café and performances to the town centre, and CRASH! Presents ‘A Better Britain II: Britlins’, an exhibition presenting fictional plans for a Britain based on 1970s holiday camp nostalgia, which was held on the 10th floor of Reading’s Thames Tower.
For more information on this and other Reading International exhibitions, visit www.readinginternational.org.
FULL SCHEDULE OF AUTUMN EVENTS
‘The Critic as Artist’ exhibition
Reading Museum, Blagrave Street, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 1QH
Tue 10 October 2017 – Sat 27 January 2018
More information at https://readinginternational.org
- Finding Flowers for Oscar Wilde 1
Tue 10 and Tues 17 October 2017 (starts 12.30pm)
Free University of Reading Art Lab event in Reading Town Hall Square.
- The Critic as Artist Late
Thu 26 October 2017 (6.30pm – 8.45pm)
o In Conversation: The Critic as Artist
University of Reading Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell in conversation with renowned contemporary art curator Michael Bracewell
o The Importance of Discussing Everything: Painting, Poetry and Criticism in the Victorian Age
Expert panel discussion on the work and criticism of Oscar Wilde and his contemporaries and Victorian aestheticism
o Unveiling of Art Lab Finding Flowers for Oscar Wilde flower screen
- Workshop: Finding Flowers for Oscar Wilde 2
Sat 25 November 2017 (10am – 1pm)
Workshop for LGBT+ individuals and allies to create 3D printed flowers to be included in second installation dedicated to Oscar Wilde. Held as part of the University of Reading Being Human festival, in collaboration with LGBT+ charity Support U.
‘Ante Phylloxera’ Performance
South Street Arts Center, South Street Reading
‘Ante Phylloxera’ exhibition
Jelly, 53 Broad Street, Reading, RG1 2AA
Sat 7 October 2017 – Sat 11 November 2017
Performance event by New York and Berlin based artists Rochelle Goldberg, Veit Laurent Kurz, Stefan Tcherepnin and friends. Followed by and exhibition at
‘How a Black Void Replaces the White Cube and a Painting Moves from the Fine to the Performing Arts’ exhibition
The Rising Sun Arts Centre, 30 Silver Street, Reading, RG1 2ST
Sat 7 October 2017 – Sat 11 November 2017
The exhibition connects joint musical influences from Auer’s hometown Stuttgart with the history of music in Reading exemplified by the town’s annual music festival and continues the artist’s fascination with painting, through his decision to create an installation based on a cinematic representation of the medium with an ambient soundtrack.
Further information at www.readinginternational.org