Two major exhibitions honouring the Irish novelist, playwright, and poet Oscar Wilde, one in Paris, one in Reading, UK will open next month. Paris was the city of his death in 1900 and he is famously buried in Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery within a mausoleum designed by the Modern British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein. The other exhibition is a group show of Contemporary artists all paying homage to Wilde in a multitude of Media at Reading Jail, the final destination of his incarceration for ‘gross indecency’.
Wilde spoke fluent French and was committed Francophile. The show at the Petit Palais will include portraits of his wife Constance as well as his young lover Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas. The exhibition will also feature manuscripts, photographs, paintings and personal effects containing over 200 pieces. The exhibition is curated by his great-grandson, Merlin Holland, who resides in France, of the exhibition he said: “There has never been a major Paris exhibition on Oscar. Everybody is now saying, ‘well, why not?’ Oscar is going to be plastered all over the Metro and the buses. I think the French are quite surprised that they never thought of doing this before.”
Meanwhile, in Reading a city close to London, a new Artangel project will allow the public to enter inside HM Prison Reading, for the first time in its 170 year history. Artists, writers, and performers will use the confined spaces to explore their interests in the infamous Oscar Wilde. The playwright is perhaps the most notorious prisoner to serve time in the jail’s vast Victorian corridors. This was a devastating experience for the aesthete, who died in Paris age 46, only three years after his release from the prison. Although much has been written about his time in the jail, this series of events will create a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate and open a dialogue about one of the greatest injustices of the 19th century.
The Artangel project programme will include well-known 21st century creatives such as: Ai Weiwei, Neil Bartlett, Marlene Dumas, Ralph Fiennes, Robert Gober, Kathryn Hunter, Maxine Peake, Steve McQueen, Doris Salcedo, Lemn Sissay, Gillian Slovo, Patti Smith, Wolfgang Tillmans, Colm Tóibín, Ben Whishaw and Jeanette Winterson.
Oscar Wilde: Insolence Incarnate, The Petit Palais 28-09-2016 to 15/01/2017
Inside: Artists, Writers and Readers HM Prison Reading 04-09-2016 – 30-10-2016