Two Artists Made Glorious Outfits From PPE and Took Them Out on the Town in New York—See Images of Their Adventures Here

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi made a matching suit and gown for a day-long performance in the city.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask at the New Museum's Jordan Casteel show. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.
Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask at the New Museum's Jordan Casteel show. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Would you wear a gown made of surgical masks? What if it was a work of art?

As New Yorkers cautiously venture back to museums and galleries, a pair of artists took personal protective equipment to the next level last month when they crafted their own face mask formal wear for a performance that took them all over the city.

Artists Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi created their couture-style looks in the hopes of encouraging people to wear masks to help combat the spread of illness.

Accompanied by photographer Tudor Vasilescu, the two rode the subway, enjoyed an appointment for the New Museum’s Jordan Casteel show, strolled through Washington Square Park, and grabbed a drink, all the while kitted-out in eye-catching protective gear.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em> at the New Museum. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask at the New Museum. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

“It turned into a massively successful mask-wearing awareness campaign, seen by literally millions,” Wilson told Artnet News in an email. “It was the perfect antidote to the thousands of bots pushing out anti-mask and conspiracy-theory propaganda.”

On Instagram, images of the pair racked up at least 110,000 likes by the likes of @tosh.0@subwaycreatures, and art critic Jerry Saltz.

In what seems like something out of a Project Runway episode, each look features about 150 blue non-surgical masks sewn onto used clothing, for a total cost of about $65.

Wilson, a street artist who made headlines for creating subway station memorials to the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Aretha Franklin, took about 12 hours to complete his “Hazmask Suit.” Hankaniemi, a textile artist, whipped her dress up in a single afternoon.

“Considering the time and budget spent, we definitely looked much posher than I had expected,” Hankaniemi told Artnet News in an email, noting that the looks held up well through a busy day in the city. “The outfits make a strong visual statement and are very well crafted—my dress even has pockets!”

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em>, in front of the Empire State Building. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask, in front of the Empire State Building. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

“The main complaint [from the public] was that we were denying masks to healthcare professionals or poor people, when in fact they aren’t medical grade, can be delivered by the thousand the next day, and were less than 20 cents each,” Wilson said. “This project has definitely inspired way more people than it has offended.”

“Lots of people shouted their approval and wanted photos,” Wilson added. “We must have asked 50 people who willingly put their masks on, plus we had a bag of masks we gave away to anyone who didn’t have one.”

“We definitely would not get the same reception in many other American cities,” he acknowledged. “This [Presidential] administration, and others around the world, have created the idea that not wearing a mask is an act of political defiance and allegiance.”

Hankaniemi doesn’t have much hope that a stunt by a couple of artists will convince people when the word of scientists has failed, but she does hope there’s another opportunity to wear her face mask finery.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em>. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

“I’d love to have lunch at the Grill at the Trump World Tower wearing them,” she said. “We’d probably get rocks thrown at us.”

As for their custom wardrobes, the artists hope to hang on to them.

“I’d love to see them saved somewhere,” Hankaniemi said. “They’re records of this very strange time.”

See more photos of the performance below.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em> on the subway. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask on the subway. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson, <em>Wear a Mask, Hazmask Suit</em> in the Westfield World Trade Center. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson, Wear a Mask, Hazmask Suit in the Westfield World Trade Center. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em> at the New Museum. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask at the New Museum. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em> at the New Museum. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask at the New Museum. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em> at the New Museum's Jordan Casteel show. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask at the New Museum’s Jordan Casteel show. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em> at the New Museum's Jordan Casteel show. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask at the New Museum’s Jordan Casteel show. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson, <em>Wear a Mask, Hazmask Suit</em> at Federal Hall. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson, Wear a Mask, Hazmask Suit at Federal Hall. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em>. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em>. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em>. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em>. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em>. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em>. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

 

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, <em>Wear a Mask</em> at the New Museum. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.

Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask at the New Museum. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.


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