Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has partnered with Guggenheim Museum curator Alexandra Munroe to launch a series of face masks printed with some of his artworks.
Ai is an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party, and some of the masks feature drawings that hint at the Chinese authorities’ strict control of citizens: CCTV cameras, handcuffs and, more provocative, a raised middle finger.
The latter, Mask with Middle Finger, will be sold separately as an artwork.
The masks were produced at Ai’s studio in the German capital, Berlin, where he lived for four years before moving to the UK in 2019.
The masks are available in sets of four or 20, and bids for packs of them are being invited on e-commerce website eBay.
Proceeds from the sale of the 10,000 face coverings will go to Human Rights Watch, Refugees International and Médecins Sans Frontières. Ai hopes their sale will raise at least US$1 million (S$1.4 million).
Ai has been living in exile in Europe since 2015, when he was allowed to leave China, and is now based in Cambridge, in eastern England, with his family.
In a lengthy Instagram post, 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.
“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 too helpless.”
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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.