Rock Cellar Magazine

Art-o-mat 1Cigarette popularity has been declining for years in the U.S. and the machines have been removed and outlawed just the same, but now that smoking has been deemed socially unacceptable throughout the world the question remains: What will happen to all those cool vending machines? Clark Whittington, an artist from North Carolina, may have the answer.
It started in 1997, when Whittington had the idea to use one of the recently banned machines in his upcoming art show. He refurbished the machine, calling it the Art*o*mat, and filled it with twelve of his paintings and photographs, which dispensed for $1.00 each. When the show was intended to be dismantled, the owner of the gallery, Cynthia Giles, loved the machine and asked that it stay there permanently. To this day it remains unaltered, and in its original location.
After the success of the installation, Whittington recruited other local artists in the area to join the project and formed a sponsoring organization, called Artists in Cellophane, with the intent to repackage and easily distribute art to the people.
Art-o-mat 2Since 1997, the project has grown to include hundreds of artists with eighty-two machines in thirty-four states as well as Vienna and Quebec in coffee shops, museums and grocery stores. The machines can be used by anybody, simply enter a $5.00 token in the machine, push, pull or twist a knob and plunk, out drops your new cigarette box-sized piece of art. The machines sell whatever artists chose to create, including jewelry, paintings, woodcuts, and bronzes, making each machine that much more mysterious.
The machines unconventional way of art dealing is fun, it helps artists get their work out there (they even get a cut!), and it’s original. But, what’s really remarkable about the project, are the dispensaries themselves. The refurbished vintage machines create a desire to be touched. From the satisfying feel of pulling the mechanical knob, to their custom designed exterior, each experience is unique.
Art-o-mat 3Click here to find an Art*o*mat near you.

Related Posts