Ai Weiwei has turned his most iconic artworks into a series of face masks, which will be sold to raise money for those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chinese artist is hoping to raise at least $1 million (£816k) for charities helping vulnerable groups and people displaced during the crisis, including Human Rights Watch, Refugees International, and Médecins Sans Frontières.
The designs, which can be bought in sets of four or 20, often reference state control or freedom of expression, including imagery of a surveillance camera and handcuffs. Three of the designs, which include Ai’s works, “Mask with Middle Finger” and “Sunflower Seeds”, will be sold individually.
In a statement on Instagram, which accompanied a video of the masks being made, Ai said: “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 continued: “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.”
Produced in collaboration with Guggenheim Museum curator, Alexandra Munroe, the masks are printed by hand at Ai’s Berlin studio, and are not for medical use.
As an artist and activist, Ai has consistently used his work to raise awareness about human rights issues. Earlier this month, the artist announced that he was releasing a book of first-hand stories from the refugee crisis, based on his 2017 film, Human Flow.