Detroit Institute of Arts pushes artsy face masks

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

Why put on an ordinary face mask when you can wear a priceless work of art?

The Detroit Institute of Arts online store is selling nine different fine-art coronavirus masks, with images -- five of which come from the DIA -- ranging from Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" to Edvard Munch's "The Scream."

The Detroit Institute of Arts is selling fine-art face masks, of which Edvard Munch's "The Scream" is one of the most popular. (At present, the DIA is sold out; new masks will be available in mid-June.)

But if you want to order one, you'll have to wait till June. The initial batch of several hundred went on sale Friday at 9 a.m., and sold out in one hour.

Museum Director of Retail Operations Eric Huck says they already have pre-orders for 1,000 masks yet to fill, and won't be able to take new orders till mid-June.

It might just be worth the wait. What could be cooler than sporting Van Gogh's "Starry Night" from the Museum of Modern Art, or the DIA's own "Rounded Flower Bed" by Monet?

Other images available include Hokusai's "The Great Wave," a Modrian geometric "Composition" and the DIA's very own "Hummingbirds and Orchids" by Heade.

Each fine-art mask costs $24.95, much of which goes to support the museum. (DIA members get 10% off.)

Explaining the jump into COVID-19 couture, Huck said, "We knew there'd be a need for masks, and we're always looking to use our artwork in products for somebody to take home and use it in their real life."

Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" from the DIA is another favorite among face-mask buyers.

The same firm that prints the arty scarves on sale at the DIA, Narrative Materials in Chicago, is handling the face masks. 

All masks are made of 100% cotton with reinforced stitching, machine washable, and come with a bendable metal nose bridge and pocket for an insertable filter. 

"Narrative Materials is producing them as fast as they can physically can," Huck said, "so we’re at about a four-week wait time. They’re all printed in studio and hand-sewn," he added, "not mass produced."

As for last week's instant sell-out, "I just think everybody is looking for something they feel good about," Huck said, "since we have to wear masks anyway."

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy