Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and other artists made masks for COVID-19 relief

Exploring themes of the pandemic, race, and gender.

Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and some more of the world's most prominent contemporary artists have banded together to raise funds for COVID-19 relief through face masks. Each of the six artists — including Raymond Pettibon, Lorna Simpson, Rashid Johnson, and Rosemarie Trockel — created original work for the reusable cotton masks. Themes include the pandemic itself, as well as as gender and race.

Half of the proceeds will go to the World Health Organization's Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, while the other half will be split between the Artist Relief Coalition and Common Practice, which support artists impacted by the pandemic in the U.S. and U.K., respectively. Most of the masks can be bought for $40 each or in a bundle of six for $200. Trockel's, however, only come in a set of four for $140 or in the other bundle.

Wedel Art Collective, a charitable initiative from Amelie Von Wedel and her Wedel Art team, worked with a group of galeries including David Zwirner to assemble the artists.

Wearable art — Kruger's mask reads "Sign Language" atop her signature shade of red (you know, the one adopted by Supreme along with the Futura font). It's a reference to her 1985 work Untitled (We Will No Longer Be Seen and Not Heard), which used non-literal sign language to criticize the power of mass media, as well as stereotypes. Here, the phrase "Sign Language" is meant to reflect "the urgency of this critical moment and displays concerns about safety, danger and empathy," according to a press release.


Holzer's is also a response to the pandemic and reads "You – Me" as a reminder of the necessity of wearing masks. "I like to think of my work as useful," she said in a release. "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."


Pettibon drew his Vavoom figure, inspired by Felix the Cat and featuring in his work since the mid-80s, screaming "a rallying cry and an existential shout into the void." Vavoom's voice is a super power that can change the world around him, making the mask a meta form of messaging.


Simpson's mask is based Daydream, another work of hers from this year that placed several faces of women who appeared in Ebony magazine ads atop each other, "culminating in surreal portraits."


Johnson also referenced a recent work, his Broken Men series. The ceramic and glass mosaics depict abstract figures in faces to represent "the existential yearning, philosophical questions, the fight to survive with dignity… things that are always present but highlighted in times of crisis." These feelings are certainly present in the pandemic, but Johnson's history exploring Black identity suggests his mask is more of a reference to the Black Lives Matter protests.


Rounding out the collection are Trockel's masks, which come in a range of colors with a different female role model of hers printed in small typeface. These women are Nina Simone, Hannah Arendt, Marguerite Duras, and Agnes Martin. Because their names are printed so small, the masks are intended to invite conversation.

Each of the masks will be available through MatchesFashion beginning August 24. If you can't wait until then, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles also has a collection of masks from artists including Kruger, Virgil Abloh, and Yoko Ono.