The Lists

The Most Stunning Artist-Designed Face Masks Right Now

artistic artist-designed face masks for COVID 19

Now that many of us are going to be wearing a protective face mask whenever we leave home for the foreseeable future, some of us are exploring how to make them work with our overall style sensibility. If you’re among the multitudes of people looking for a way to turn this necessary new accessory into a way to express some style and personality, read on. Previously, we shared our top picks of the chic luxury designer fashion brands producing protective face masks. Now we investigate the most stunning artist-designed statement face masks available to the general public right now. In addition to a personal style statement and a functional protective layer, many of these face masks designed by contemporary artists are artistic works that poignantly memorialize this devastating era of COVID-19.

the most stunning artist-designed face masks right now

The close tie between the emotional temperature of a country and the art that emerges from that moment can be profound. So in a time of social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that artists are responding in real time in a wide range of creative ways.

Take, for example, the now-omnipresent face mask.

Face masks designed by contemporary artists have joined the ranks of those designed by leading fashion brands as the accessory of choice for the creative class. 

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Keep in mind that most of these masks aren’t medical grade, so they can’t be used by healthcare professionals. They’re intended to be used by average people who need to go to the grocery store, ride the subway, or even take a properly socially-distant walk around the neighborhood.

Photo Credit: Getty Images.

etsy is the mother lode for unique protective face masks

You can find masks made of silk, denim and luxury knitwear. Masks with sequins, bows, bold prints, camouflage prints, slogans and team logos. Masks for women, men and kids.

And of course, there’s Mask Club, which has licensing deals with beloved consumer franchises like Hello Kitty, NASA and Batman.

But if you’re seeking something truly special and life-affirming, consider a signature mask from one of the brilliant contemporary artists who are crafting them right now.

Banksy Mural in Bristol England, now with a protective COVID-19 face mask.

some artists focus on PPE and funds for first-responders

London industrial designer, artist and architect Ron Arad enlisted celebrities to be photographed wearing artistic face masks that are subsequently sold to raise money for the UK’s National Health Service.

Artistic COVID-19 face masks: the Ron Arad “Smile for our NHS” mask. Photo Credit: Dezeen.

The cotton masks are printed with portraits of famous artists including Picasso, Matisse and Dalí. Launched about a month ago, the Smile for our NHS campaign raises funds to help healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients. 

some artists make masks for stress relief

Icelandic artist and student Ýrúrarí created a series of mouth-themed face masks that she knits by hand. While she pursues her Master’s degree she’s been sharing provocative images of her take on the protective face mask.

Photo Credit: Ýrúrarí.

This one gives a whole new meaning to the idea of speaking in tongues.

some artists are masking other works of art

At the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, artist Peter Agoos and his nephew installed a surgical mask made from cling wrap on the “Day” statue outside the museum.

The MFA in Boston

Agoos considers it “a kind of temporary response to the times.”

But as a practical matter, many contemporary artists believe that if face masks are eye-catching, beautiful, witty or provocative, lots of us will be more likely to wear them. It definitely can’t hurt, right?

a selection of provocative and artistic COVID-19 face masks

Here are some of the best artist-designed face masks we’ve read about in recent days. There are definitely some here that we’ll be adding to our collection.

1. Michelle Hartney

We really love the look and the spirit of the face masks from Chicago artist Michelle Hartney. According to ArtNet News, Hartney has been re-purposing leftover materials from her earlier project “Mother’s Right,” in which she teamed with midwives and doulas to sew 1,200 hospital gowns representing every woman who died during childbirth in the US in 2013.


BUY NOW $25.

The outer layer of these face masks is cotton broadcloth; the internal layer is cotton flannel with a pocket for an optional filter. They tie at the back (which is a lot more elegant than all those ear loops!) Hartney is donating one to Chicago hospitals for every one sold. She hopes that owners will consider these masks to be functional pieces of art: to be worn, washed, and reused. 

2. The Women of Color Quilters Network

For generations, the African-American women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, have been making some of the finest quilts in the country. As have black female quilters from places as disparate as Hartford, Connecticut and xx. These exquisite quilts are now coveted works of art, and press reports have brought international attention to their beauty and craftsmanship. 

Now, the members of the Women of Color Quilters Network have turned their skills to making protective face masks for their local communities. Their effort is being supported by Souls Grown Deep Foundation, a community partnership dedicated to promoting and preserving work made by Southern artists.

3. Open Editions

Open Editions, a San Francisco-based company that makes wholesale artist goods for museum shops across the country, is now selling face masks designed by a variety of contemporary artists. They include Elana CooperMargie Ramirez,  Stephanie Syjuco, and Charles Gute, among others.

artist-designed face mask

BUY NOW $28 for a set of 2. 

Each artist-designed face mask is made from two layers of a tight weave 100% cotton, and have a wire nose bridge to help keep the top part of the mask snug to the wearer’s face. Choose between small, medium and large sizes, and elastic straps that go either over your head or loop around your ears. For each mask purchased, another will be donated to local organizations in the San Francisco area. As of this posting, over 1,275 masks had already been donated.

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4. Breathe

In Canada, a Facebook group established by two Métis artists and then expanded to include First Nations and Inuit artists, indigenous and non-indigenous artists to express themselves has blossomed in the past few weeks.

artist-designed face mask

An artist-designed COVID-19 face mask. Photo Credit: Gabriel Shepherd.

The group, called Breathe, calls on bead workers and traditional artists to share their take on the concept of a face mask.

5. Threadless

Threadless is partnering with contemporary artists on cloth face masks with lots of personality. Each artist-designed face mask is made with form-fitting three-ply polyester and a built-in wire nose bridge. The artists supply the designs for the cloth portion, and there are clever, artistic and witty face mask options galore.


artist-designed face mask


BUY NOW $17 each.

Threadless is donating 100% of the net proceeds they earn from each sale of these masks (up to a $250K maximum donation) to support MedShare, a not-for-profit that delivers surplus medical supplies to communities in need.

6. Michele Pred and The Art of Equal Pay project

The Art of Equal Pay artist-designed face mask face is part of an ongoing effort on the part of artist and activist Michele Pred. She has sponsored the production of a signed, numbered edition of 200 “Art of Equal Pay” masks. Ten percent of the proceeds go toward relief efforts.


artist-designed face mask

BUY NOW $32.


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7. artmuse x stephanie hirsh

Former fashion designer Stephanie Hirsh is sewing face masks that are both functional and also limited edition works of art in their own right. She’s released a new collaboration with curator Natasha Schlesinger of art advisory ArtMuseNY: a striking artist-designed face mask made of cotton. The masks are also available in a version with hand-stitched Swarovski crystal beading. The first run sold out. But a new edition dropped May 15, 2020. Twenty percent of the proceeds are being donated to Direct Relief.

artist-designed face mask

BUY NOW  Cotton: $45. Cotton with beads: $175. Framed: $500.

face masks designed by a contemporary artist

Given the flowering of creativity and the enduring impact that these face masks are likely to have on our collective psyches, it’s inevitable that someday some of these will be museum pieces.

ArtNet News reports that Cincinnati collector Sara Vance Waddell is already in the process of organizing an exhibition of artist-made protective face masks. She reportedly already has more than 50 artists from across the country enlisted in the effort.

artist-designed face mask

Stunning artistic artist-designed COVID-19 face masks. Red Lips by Sarah Stoler. Collection of Sara Vance Waddell. Photo Credit: ArtNet News.

We love the creativity and energy that’s being displayed by the contemporary art community in the face of this awful pandemic. It’s an important reminder of the role that beauty and craftsmanship play in our lives in even the darkest days.

So, what say you, dear reader? Are you in on this? And if so, which artist-designed face mask is your favorite? Whatever you decide, stay safe and healthy out there. We’ll get through this together.

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For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier Newsletter hereAnd see luxury in a new light.

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For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier newsletter. And see luxury in a new light.

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