Wedel Art Collective has launched a face mask collection with designs by some of the world’s leading contemporary artists. Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Lorna Simpson, Rashid Johnson, Rosemarie Trockel and Raymond Pettibon have each created a mask to be sold to raise funds for Covid-19 charities and to support artists affected by the pandemic. It is the first set of face masks available to buy on MatchesFashion.
The project saw the collective, a charitable initiative set up by art advisor Amelie Von Wedel and her team at Wedel Art, collaborate with major galleries Sprüth Magers, Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner to create the range.
Barbara Kruger’s design is made in her signature red, emblazoned with the phrase “Sign Language”. Wedel Art Collective describes in a statement that the phrase “evokes recurring themes in Kruger’s work: how our lives are shaped by speech and silence, signs and symbols,” and that its format on a face mask “reflects the urgency of this critical moment and displays concerns about safety, danger and empathy”.
Jenny Holzer’s mask reads “You – Me” and aims to tap into the necessity of mask-wearing during the pandemic. “I like to think of my work as useful,” Holzer says. “That is a recurrent impulse, when something happens in the world, if I have an idea that can be properly responsive… Not necessarily a cure or a solution but at least an offering.” The artist is known for her large-scale text works featuring definitive, powerful statements, often in response to world events.
Lorna Simpson has based her mask on another 2020 work entitled Daydream, itself part of a series of monochromatic paintings titled Special Characters. These works layer several faces of women whose faces appear in Ebony magazine adverts, “culminating in surreal portraits,” says the artist. Her conceptual photography work explores themes of identity, gender, race, history and memory.
Rashid Johnson has similarly based his design on a recent series, titled Broken Men. The original works are mosaic glass and ceramic painted with various materials, depicting abstract figures and faces. Johnson is known for exploring Black identity and movement, including a film called The Hikers featuring Black dancers on a mountain peak wearing African-inspired masks. He says the Broken Men represent the human condition, “the existential yearning, philosophical questions, the fight to survive with dignity… things that are always present but highlighted in times of crisis.”
Raymond Pettibon’s mask features Vavoom, a figure inspired by Felix the Cat, which the artist has drawn since the mid-80s. Vavoom’s voice is his superpower and holds the ability to reshape his environment, and here he is screaming “a rallying cry and an existential shout into the void,” somewhat ironically in a face covering.
Rosemarie Trockel has made four masks of the same design, each bearing the name of a female role model for the artist. These are political and philosophical theorist Hannah Arendt; singer, songwriter and civil rights activist Nina Simone; novelist and screenwriter Marguerite Duras and American abstract painter Agnes Martin. Their names sit above the mouth, legible only from a distance of 1.5 – 2 metres, supposedly “inviting conversation”.
The Wedel Art Collective Face Mask range launches today but goes on sale on 24 August, retailing at £40.
All proceeds from sales of Wedel Art Collective face masks will be donated to charity: 50 per cent to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO, powered by the United Nations Foundation; and 50 per cent divided between two artist relief charities working to support artists whose livelihoods have been severely diminished with the pandemic: the US-based Artist Relief Coalition, and Common Practice in the UK.
GalleryWedel Art Collective face masks
Face mask by Barbara Kruger. Courtesy the artist and Wedel Art Collective. Photo Zuumeo