Ai Weiwei, never one to shy away from getting involved in an activist cause, has turned his efforts toward supporting pandemic-related relief. In a new initiative launched as a collaboration with eBay, the artist and activist is selling limited-edition protective masks created in his studio in Berlin. All proceeds from the sales will go to Human Rights Watch, Refugees International, and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.
The mask artworks became available on Thursday and sales will continue through June 27. Single masks cost $50, a series of four is valued at $300, and a collection of 20 is priced at $1,500. The project was curated by Alexandra Munroe, senior curator of Asian art and senior adviser of global arts at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
The cloth masks in the sale feature silk-screened images designed by Ai, including a middle finger, sunflower seeds, and feishu, a creature in Chinese mythology. The complete set of 20 also comes with a selection of images from the artist’s “Study of Perspective” series focused on the enduring power of individuals to enact social change.
The artist said in a statement, “The Covid-19 pandemic is a humanitarian crisis. It challenges our understanding of the 21st century and warns of dangers ahead. It requires each individual to act, both alone and collectively.”
“Ai Weiwei MASK are artworks symbolic of life in the time of Covid-19,” Munroe added in a release. “To have one is an ethical and creative act to overcome our tired isolation and participate in a collective enterprise of real compassion.”
The project is not the first one Ai has undertaken since the coronavirus pandemic has begun. While in lockdown, he has been sharing screenshots of his FaceTime calls on social media.