Face facts: exhibition looks back at a year of mask-wearing in UK
Co-curator of Undercover exhibition says it examines how face coverings became ‘symbolic and contentious’
By Priya Elan
Opening exactly a year after the UK government advised people to start wearing face coverings in public, a new exhibition plots the risky journey of the face mask from health necessity to fashion statement.
Undercover, which begins online on 11 May at the Westminster Menswear Archive, will feature 52 masks from a wide range of sources, from the Metropolitan police and Manchester City FC to Paul Smith and boohooMAN.
“We thought it was an excellent moment to reflect on how quickly our relationship with face coverings has evolved over the last 12 months,” said the co-curator Prof Andrew Groves.
The exhibition will also feature a parallel photographic element articulating how masks have become highly disposable and a danger to the environment.
“The public attitude to masks over the last 12 months has hardened,” said Groves. “For such an unassuming and uncomplicated object, they have quickly become a symbolic and contentious artefact.” He said that as well as becoming an everyday item, for some people the mask had attained a darker symbolism. “They have also become a means of policing other people’s dress and behaviour.”