The art multiple is having a moment, as quick-to-turn-around editions are being used to raise funds for charitable causes – often with the added benefit of buyers getting a bargain in the process. The latest artist to make headlines is Ai Weiwei, whose lockdown project raised $1m just a few days after launching. Twenty of his images – from sunflower seeds to the middle finger – have been screen-printed onto non-surgical masks.
“This is a very little thing I can do,” he says of the initial run of 10,000 masks, available to buy on eBay from $50 each. “Every penny will go to those institutions who are fighting on the frontline, helping very unfortunate people such as refugees and their children survive this crisis in better shape. That money is too little, but it’s better than nothing.” Funds will support the efforts of Human Rights Watch, Refugees International and Médecins Sans Frontières.
Masks are also central to the crowdfunding campaign by the Contemporary Art Society, which, in partnership with Frieze London, is offering limited-edition designs by David Shrigley, Yinka Shonibare, Linder and Eddie Peake. The masks are available until 10 June for £35 each, or £120 for all four, and proceeds will go to the newly launched CAS Rapid Response Fund, supporting emerging artists, as well as art technicians and handlers whose incomes have been severely affected by gallery closures.
Other creative responses are more ephemeral, taking the form of billboard posters. UK artists and designers such as Morag Myerscough, Rebecca Strickson and Anthony Burrill have lent their creativity to Posters for the People, a street-art project by Leeds-based In Good Company. Its aim is to “bring joy, art and colour to the streets, so that people can spread positivity through art”. Banners and packs of A4 posters can also be bought via the website; the profits will be split evenly across the artists’ choice of charities. Myerscough has also created a design for 19 Artists vs Covid-19, an initiative by paper manufacturer Fedrigoni and graphic designer Álvaro López. Its £19 posters support NHS Charities Together – and are an aesthetic memento of the Stay Home era.
Photographers have also been active in charity sales. When Annie Leibovitz’s exhibition launches online at Hauser & Wirth on 8 June, it will include Upstate, a grid of photographs taken by the artist while in quarantine in upstate New York, which she says are “a response to this moment”. There’s a snap of a half-finished jigsaw, showing Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott, but also a fish dropped on the ground by a heron. The print ($1,000) is a limited edition of 100, from which all proceeds will be shared, with 50 per cent going to the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund and 50 per cent distributed between Black Lives Matter and the Equal Justice Initiative.