Ai Weiwei turns masterpieces into face masks for Covid-19 charities

The series of 20 masks are inspired by his key works and their various themes

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei attends the first International Animal Welfare Summit 2018 (IAWS) on 24 April 2018 in Vienna. / AFP PHOTO / APA / GEORG HOCHMUTH / Austria OUT
Powered by automated translation

Fancy getting your face on some Ai Weiwei masterworks?

Well, the celebrated Chinese artist is raising funds for charity by designing a series of 20 different face masks inspired by some of his key works.

Launched on eBay and on sale until Saturday, June 27, the first batch of 10,000 masks will be sold at prices ranging from $50 (Dh183) each, $300 for a series of four masks and $1,500 for the full 20 mask collection.

One of the designs available features sunflower seeds, a reference to his installation at London's Tate Modern which had him use more than 100 million porcelain seeds.

Other visuals take their cue from key themes informing Weiwei's art work. They include creatures from ancient Chinese mythology as well politically inspired imagery including a surveillance camera.

Weiwei: “Our small individual acts become powerful”

A collaborative project between Weiwei and Guggenheim Museum curator Alexandra Munro, the money raised from the sale will go to a series of international humanitarian agencies helping those affected by the pandemic.

In a statement announcing the sale, Weiwei reflected on the symbolism of the facial mask amid the pandemic.

“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,” he said.

"Our small individual acts become powerful when they are part of the social response. An individual wearing a mask makes a gesture; a society wearing masks combats a deadly virus. And a society that wears masks because of the choices of individuals, rather than because of the directive of authorities, can defy and withstand any force. No will is too small, and no act is too helpless.”

Munro added that the masks "are artworks symbolic of life in the time of Covid-19,”. “To have one is an ethical and creative act to overcome our tired isolation and participate in a collective enterprise of real compassion,” she said.

This latest project is the result of a creatively fertile period for Weiwei, who has been spending his lockdown at home with his partner and child in the English university city of Cambridge.

As well as sharing some sketches and photographs with fans on his social media accounts, Weiwei continues to work on the opera production of Puccini's Turandot, which was in rehearsal stages when Covid-19 struck.

That said, the lockdown also provided him with an unexpected break from a globe trotting career.

"I have never had such a peaceful and enjoyable time in my life. I'm spending so much time with my loved ones and this spring in Cambridge will be memorable for the rest of my life because I've never seen so many wildflowers," Weiwei told The Guardian. "Daily I walk out in the fields and take photographs and see what their Latin and Chinese name is. It is so much fun."