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Protective gear as an art object

Caroline Zöller

Published on 09.03.2020

For centuries man has worn special protective wear at work but this is the first time for personal protective equipment to be “promoted” to an art object: “Safety Jackets zipped the Other Way” is the title of an extraordinary project initiated by DIY store chain Hornbach and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Known for its original and occasionally provocative marketing ideas, Hornbach now offers its shoppers a DIY artwork by the star artist. Centrestage here are high-vis vests and other materials found at DIY stores or used by construction workers. The key: in the Readymade tradition – an artwork that declares an everyday object art – objects of daily use can be converted into an artwork that everyone can handcraft at home.  

To Ai Weiwei the do-it-yourself artwork is far more than an advertising gimmick. A proven object such as the high-vis jacket is given a completely new meaning by this project. Beyond this, the artist also wants to create a forum for modern art beyond the established art scene. “Art belongs to everyone. Everyone can be an artist or have the possibility to create art,” says Ai Weiwei.

In concrete terms, the artwork is made up of several high-vis jackets that are connected by zippers thereby forming a sculpture. Amateur artists can design various versions. Fans can order the set from the Hornbach webshop. It contains an assembly instruction, a certificate of authenticity and an info brochure that sets the artwork in an art history context. The assembly of “Safety Jackets zipped the Other Way” is left up to each individual – just like its interpretation. 

Bild: Hornbach