More than a hundred items have been selected for the exposition, which demonstrate the diversity of forms, adherence to traditions and the ideological potential of masks. The exhibition is based on the collections of the State Hermitage, the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Kunstkamera) and private collections.
Masks for protecting the face or hiding it have been known to mankind since antiquity. The events of 2020–2021 renewed the status of the mask - and turned it into a symbol of everyday life. Its social role was also unexpectedly manifested: the absence of a medical mask can deprive a person of the opportunity to visit certain organizations, including museums, and also restrict access to goods and services. In this special situation, the Hermitage offers to look anew at other "masks" - created on the African continent in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, when the mask has become almost a symbol of modernity, many aspects of this type of African plastic can be understood differently than before.