Ai Weiwei MASK is an art project offering face coverings hand printed with iconic images of the artist’s work, available exclusively at http://www.ebay.com/aiweiweimask
Artist and activist Ai Weiwei is calling for a citizen-led response to humanitarian issues caused by COVID-19. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of Ai Weiwei MASK will benefit the COVID-19 humanitarian and human rights emergency efforts led by Human Rights Watch, Refugees International, and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
Cambridge, United Kingdom, 28 May 2020 – Today, Ai Weiwei launches Ai Weiwei MASK, an art project in collaboration with eBay for Charity to raise funds for COVID-19 humanitarian emergency efforts led by Human Rights Watch, Refugees International, and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Beginning May 28 and running through June 27 exclusively on www.ebay.com/aiweiweimask, Ai Weiwei MASK artworks will be sold for USD $50 for single works, USD $300 for series of four works, and $1500 for a collection set of twenty. Ai Weiwei is using an object synonymous with our times – the face covering – as a canvas, and turning to his familiar medium, the Internet, to provoke wide public engagement.
Ai Weiwei MASK is an art project offering face coverings hand printed with iconic images of Ai’s life-long campaign for free speech and individual rights. The images are silk-screened by hand on non-surgical cloth face masks. The artworks are being made in the artist’s studio in Berlin. Ai donated the artworks to be sold exclusively through eBay for Charity and 100% of the proceeds from these sales will equally benefit the COVID-19 emergency humanitarian and human rights efforts led by these non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In the COVID-19 emergency, all three NGOs are working to promote and defend the rights and the well-being of displaced communities around the world.
In his statement on the Ai Weiwei MASK project, Ai comments, “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”.
Ai Weiwei MASK is curated as an independent project by Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator, Asian Art and Senior Advisor, Global Arts, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, who has collaborated with Ai on previous projects. She remarks, “Ai Weiwei MASK 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”.
Call for citizen-led response
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the deadliest threats facing humanity since World War II and has created more unemployment than any economic crisis since the Great Depression. The consequences fall most heavily on children, the sick, the elderly, and the poor including migrants, refugees, and those living in conflict zones around the world. The world’s 71 million refugees are among the most vulnerable due to population density in camps and urban areas, lack of access to healthcare and information, restrictions on the movement of humanitarian aid, and a grossly inadequate international response.
For artist and activist Ai Weiwei, the humanitarian and human rights challenges of the pandemic are its most vivid emergency. They remind us of the perpetual subjugation of the world’s most invisible and vulnerable communities. While in quarantine in the United Kingdom, where he is working on a documentary film about the coronavirus outbreak, Ai has turned to his usual medium, the Internet, to provoke engagement with the global crisis. The artist’s project calls for a collective response from society to support the emergency COVID-19 efforts of leading humanitarian NGOs. The artist considers a single purchase an “act” of hope and social awareness.
Ai Weiwei 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”.
Kenneth Roth (Executive Director, Human Rights Watch), said: “This is a powerful example of art and activism coming together for good. We are honored to partner with Ai Weiwei and eBay for Charity to raise funds for our work on the COVID crisis. With their support, we are able to fight for those most affected by the pandemic – vulnerable children, refugees, and people who live in poverty”.
Dr. Reveka Papadopoulou (President of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders - Operational Center of Geneva), said: “For MSF, Ai Weiwei's artistic proposal to turn these masks into a symbol of the humanitarian challenges of the COVID-19 crisis is very relevant and powerful. This project will give people the opportunity to contribute with a donation to our COVID-19 medical work. This includes responding to the needs of the communities affected by the disease and their health systems, or responding to the consequences that this pandemic is having and will have on the millions of people we serve in more than 70 countries. We are grateful to Ai Weiwei for having chosen MSF as one of the recipients of the funds”.
Eric Schwartz (President, Refugees International), said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is a profound test of our common humanity, as it is the world’s most vulnerable people—refugees and others who have been forced from their homes—who are at gravest risk. This noble initiative sounds the alarm on this dire threat, and will both amplify and strengthen Refugees International advocacy for human rights and critical assistance to those who are displaced due to persecution, violence, and other injustices“.
What and where to collect
Ai Weiwei MASK artworks can be purchased as single works; as series of four; or as a complete set of twenty which includes the artist’s iconic Study of Perspective series. Made in the artist’s studio in Berlin, each work is silk-screened by hand on cloth face masks. In addition, each package includes a signed artist’s statement. The artworks are not recommended for medical use and no liability is assumed if they are used for this purpose. The masks are not washable.
Mask with Middle Finger. A new woodcut print of an iconic Ai Weiwei symbol of affirmation and self-empowerment.
Feishu. This fabulous creature is part of the Shanhaijing, or the Classic of Mountains and Seas, one of the earliest sources of Chinese mythology.
Sunflower Seeds. This ink painting of sunflower seeds is based on Ai Weiwei’s famous Tate Modern installation consisting of one hundred million individually crafted porcelain sunflower seeds. For Ai Weiwei, this symbolizes the significance of each of us in the sea of humanity.
Series of 4 each: $300
Finger – Buddha, Ghost, Hand with Gesture, Mask with Middle Finger
These new drawings by Ai Weiwei render his iconic gesture of defiance in four different styles, drawing from imagery relating to life, the afterlife, and mortality.
Free Speech – Bird, Crab, Handcuffs, Surveillance
This series pictures four emblems of Ai Weiwei’s famous campaigns for free speech. The Twitter bird symbolizes the potential of social media to empower individual expression. The crab, or he xie, became slang on the Chinese Internet for censorship. The handcuffs relate to Ai Weiwei’s own imprisonment and are universal symbols of oppression. The camera is an omnipresent tool of state surveillance.
Shanhaijing – Chuniao, Feishu, Heluoyu, Lu
These fabulous creatures are part of the Shanhaijing, or the Classic of Mountains and Seas, one of the earliest sources of Chinese mythology. This ancient text describing a rich spirit world of fantastical geographies and hybrid forms of fish, birds, and dragons has long been suppressed in China.
Collection set of 20: $1500
This offering includes a complete set of Ai Weiwei MASK works plus a selection of the Study of Perspective photograph series: Tiananmen, Beijing, China, 1995; White House, Washington, D.C., 1995; Reichstag, Berlin, Germany, 1999; Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, 1999; Colosseum, Rome, Italy, 2003; Houses of Parliament, London, UK, 2005; Valle de los Caidos, Madrid, Spain, 2009
In his Studies in Perspective, Ai Weiwei asserts the empowerment of the individual in front of iconic (and always contested) sites of cultural, political, and ideological power around the world. These images assert the artist’s role as an agent of social change.
To purchase Ai Weiwei MASK and for additional information, please visit www.ebay.com/aiweiweimask
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- Twitter: @aiww
- Instagram: @aiww
About Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei is a celebrated contemporary artist and prominent human rights activist. He is an idealist who can tackle the most brutal reality. For some, this would be a paradox. But for Ai, belief in the power of art to change real-life conditions drives his work as an artist, filmmaker, blogger, dissident and most recently, as a refugee crises humanitarian. Ai was born in Beijing in 1957 and currently lives and works in Berlin. He is the recipient of the 2015 Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International and the 2012 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation. Ai’s most recent film Vivos premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Documentary Premieres section.
About the Charities
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch through its investigations and reporting presses governments to respect human rights in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic—both because it is the right thing to do and because it is the most effective way to protect our health. Human Rights Watch pays special attention to people who are at greatest risk of infection by the virus or by neglect in the official response, including people living in poverty, ethnic and religious minorities, women, people with disabilities, older people, LGBT people, migrants, refugees, and children. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/19/human-rights-dimensions-covid-19-response
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
MSF COVID-19 Crisis Fund directs urgently needed funds to its emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. Right now, MSF is providing medical care and support in more than 70 countries to counter the new coronavirus disease. Our teams are also gearing up to confront potential outbreaks in the hundreds of areas where we were already working before the pandemic struck. We are deploying medics, sending supplies, and applying nearly 50 years of experience fighting epidemics to protect the most vulnerable populations and to save lives.
Refugees International advocates for assistance, human rights, protection, and solutions for refugees and other forcibly displaced people. More than 70 million people globally have been forced from their homes due to persecution, human rights abuses, and armed conflict, and tens of millions more are displaced annually by natural disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic puts these people at further risk. In its project on COVID-19 and the Displaced, Refugees International is raising the alarm on the crucial importance of support for the displaced in response to COVID-19, and pressing governments and international organizations to make sure they are not left behind.
About eBay for Charity
eBay for Charity enables members of the eBay community to connect with and support their favorite charities in the U.S. and abroad. Every time a user buys or sells on eBay, it's an opportunity to support causes that matter the most and to help with their fundraising goals. With millions of buyers globally and more than 83,500 charities enrolled on the site, eBay is home to one of the world's largest and most active giving communities. Since 2003, the eBay community has raised more than $1 billion for charity. For more information visit ebayforcharity.org
Ai Weiwei MASK Project Team
Producer: Ai Weiwei Studio @aiww
Curator: Alexandra Munroe @alexandramunroe
Advisor: Greg Hilty, Curatorial Director, Lisson Gallery @lisson_gallery
Ai Weiwei Studio acknowledges the volunteer services of the following organizations whose generous support has made the Ai Weiwei MASK project possible: Cypress LLP; Mtec Fine Art Shippers; and eBay for Charity, one of the world’s largest and most active fundraising platforms.