The ROM’s newest collection highlights how facemasks have become symbols of social, economic, and artistic expression
As the novel coronavirus swept across the globe last year, facemasks offered the first line of defense. With supplies for disposable PPE running low, corporations and individuals both turned to creating custom masks—at first to help meet shortages in healthcare supply, and later to meet general demand. Over the course of the pandemic, these masks have evolved from being merely functional to becoming objects of self-expression and social demonstration.
During the first lockdown in 2020, ROM curators Fahmida Suleman, Sarah Fee, and Alexandra Palmer initiated a rapid response to collecting COVID-19 masks from around the world for the ROM. The Museum’s collection of non-medical facemasks presents a snapshot of the global response to the pandemic in the form of meaningful social, economic, artistic, and cultural expressions. Many masks are handcrafted by craftspeople and designers reliant on tourism who pivoted their businesses by making facemasks to continue earning a living and to promote the wearing of face covers in the fight against the virus.
These objects attest to the power of artistic ingenuity and human creativity in the face of a global crisis.
The Wall Street Journal
Margins (Volume 4/3), January 2021, University of Toronto Scarborough
Alaraby TV (London)
Al Arabiya (Dubai)