The artwork's presence at the Grade II-listed jail building, which closed in 2013, prompted renewed calls for the site to be turned into an arts venue.
Banksy, a street artist who made the image of an escaping prisoner appeared on the side of Reading jail on 1 March. It is possibly resembling famous inmate Oscar Wild. But the mural on the wall has been defaced with red paint. It shows a typewriter at the bottom with the words “Team Robbo” appear below.
“Team Robbo” appear on Banksy prison mural
Robbo was a graffiti artist who died in 2014. He had been in a long-running feud with Banksy. The rivalry started in 2009 when Bristol-based Banksy painted over one of Robbo’s tags next to Regent’s Canal in Camden, which dated from 1985.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which owns Reading Prison, said it was aware of the situation but would not be commenting further. Councillor Karen Rowland, Reading Borough Council’s member for culture, told there was “very little” the authority could do. “It’s clear we love our Banksy, even if it is the MoJ’s Banksy – so we will have to see what we can do,” she added.
Save Reading Gaol campaign group said on Twitter it was “awful news to wake up to” and that the artwork had been left “vulnerable to destruction“. Vince John, from the 1loveart gallery in Bristol, said it appeared the vandalism had been carried out quickly.
“They didn’t have a ladder and didn’t go any higher [than the typewriter]. It’s a real shame. I don’t think Team Robbo have done themselves any favours. A good art restorer should be able to make it look relatively like the original, but it will cost money and that’s money coming out of Reading’s budget,” added Mr John.
The artwork’s presence at the Grade II-listed jail building, which closed in 2013, prompted renewed calls for the site to be turned into an arts venue.