Idris Khan designs Vivaldi-inspired facemasks to support Black and POC curators

Idris Khan making facemasks in his studio © Stephen White

Idris Khan making facemasks in his studio © Stephen White

The Buck stopped here

The Buck stopped here is a weekly blog by our contemporary art correspondent Louisa Buck covering the hottest events and must-see exhibitions in London and beyond

It promises to be one of the most popular face coverings for the strangest of Frieze weeks. Designed by Idris Khan, this sustainable linen protective mask and matching case features a work titled Time Past, Time Present, originally made by superimposing and then photographing layers of blue watercolour sheet music of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (1723).

The work was conceived during lockdown when Khan recalls watching “the vivid colours of nature changing intensely.” But this is more than just a fancy piece of face furniture. Khan’s mask marks the launch of a new initiative established by Frieze and Deutsche Bank to try and help redress long overdue disparities in accessibility, representation and social mobility within the UK’s visual arts sector.

A close up of Idris Khan making his watercolour work Time Past, Time Present © Idris Khan

The Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship will support UK-based Black and POC (people of colour) curators to develop their practice through a paid placement within a prestigious public institution. The inaugural fellowship will be based at Chisenhale Gallery which, in addition to its renowned exhibition and outreach programmes, already has an established track record for offering high quality training and professional development to emerging curators. Throughout the Chisenhale placement the fellow will also be given ongoing access to mentoring sessions with members of the Frieze team and Deutsche Bank business support.

The fellowship programme will be supported by proceeds raised by a series of artist-led initiatives and editions, of which Khan’s mask is the first. It is priced at £40 and available for purchase online at and at Frieze week locations. “To be able to support a curator on their journey is fantastic, especially now as I am sure that funding is going to get hit over the next couple of years,” says Khan, who hopes that the fellowship will be a “long lasting and impactful initiative.” The next artist’s edition to raise funds for the programme comes from the British film maker and artist John Akomfrah and will be available later in October.

UK-based Black or POC curators will be eligible to apply for an inaugural fellowship from January 2021, with an initial fundraising target of £45,000 set to support the first fellow’s salary, travel, research and professional development. Any further funds will go towards future fellowships, so be sure to make these musical masks an indispensable part of your socially distanced wardrobe!


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