Blue-Chip Artists and MatchesFashion Have You Covered with a New Collection of Collectible Face Masks
Thanks to Wedel Art Collective, a new COVID-19 relief initiative, you can soon don masks designed by artists, including Lorna Simpson, Raymond Pettibon, and Barbara Kruger
As the pandemic blazes on throughout the world and face masks become the new normal, it seems every store or maker is throwing their hat in the ring to produce their own iterations. Very few, however, are museum-worthy. This month, global luxury shopping destination MatchesFashion is unveiling nine 100 percent cotton masks designed by six renowned contemporary artists to be sold exclusively on its site starting August 24. The limited-edition lineup includes styles by Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Rashid Johnson, Lorna Simpson, Raymond Pettibon, and Rosemarie Trockel, who has produced four distinct versions.
Behind this artist collaboration is Wedel Art Collective, a new initiative founded by art advisor Amelie von Wedel to raise funds for COVID-19 relief. By partnering with galleries Spruth Magers, Hauser & Wirth, and David Zwirner, Von Wedel secured some of contemporary art’s biggest names, all of whom make social and political messages a dominant theme in their practices. Fifty percent of the masks’ proceeds will be donated to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization. The remainder will be divided between the U.S.-based Artist Relief coalition and Common Practice in the U.K., two charities supporting artists severely impacted by the pandemic.
“The simple idea of community was the starting point for the mask project: bringing together a selection of influential and thought-provoking artists to each come up with a design that responds to the current crisis,” Von Wedel tells Galerie. “From there, we approached some of our favorite artists who we thought would be great to collaborate with on this—each one having their own unique message.”
While some artists created original artworks for the masks, others adapted from their existing oeuvres. Putting a timely twist on his character Vavoom, which he has drawn since the mid-1980s, Raymond Pettibon did both. With only one word, vavoom, in his vocabulary, a cartoonlike figure features a wide-open mouth that shouts for environmental change. In the spirit of the six-feet-apart mandate, it’s as if Vavoom is saying, “Not so close!”
Evoking a shared sentiment, Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger designed masks that incorporate their signature word-based practice. “I like to think of my work as useful,” Holzer said in a statement. Her design reads “You – Me” in an ornate script, a reminder that facial coverings not only benefit the wearer but also those around them. “That is a recurrent impulse, when something happens in the world, if I have an idea that be properly responsive. . . . Not necessarily a cure or a solution but at least an offering.”
Kruger’s red mask reads “Sign / Language,” similarly capturing the ongoing urgency and importance of following COVID-19 protocol in addition to addressing the importance of speech versus silence in her work. Rosemarie Trockel, who is the only artist to create four mask styles, uses words to pay homage to the female roles models who have featured in her work: political and philosophical theorist Hannah Arendt, songwriter and activist Nina Simone, novelist and screenwriter Marguerite Duras, and American minimalist painter Agnes Martin.
As for the pictorial offerings, Lorna Simpson’s mask is based on her 2020 work Daydream, which is from a series of monochromatic paintings titled “Special Characters.” To achieve a Surrealist-like portrait, she layered faces of several women who appeared in Ebony magazine ads. Rashid Johnson, too, referenced his most recent body of work, “Broken Men,” which uses emotive faces in rectangular forms to give the overall illusion of a vibrant mosaic. “To me the ‘Broken Men’ are a stand-in for the human condition,” Johnson said in a statement. “The existential yearning, philosophical questions, the fight to survive with dignity . . . things that are always present but highlighted in times of crisis.”
Von Wedel tells Galerie that if the need for masks persists, she would strongly consider doing a second round with another group of artists. “We formed Wedel Art Collective, a team of volunteer experts within the arts, fashion, and design, as a way of coming together and using our different strengths to contribute what we can during this time,” she says. “If this leads to more exciting charitable projects in the future, then we would be thrilled.”