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24.08.21 |

The Art Vending Machine Revolution

Ideas

At Art Pharmacy we are always looking at new ways to experience art in our everyday lives; so why not from a vending machine?

When we usually think about art, for most people the first thing that comes to mind is a gallery with large framed artworks on the wall to be viewed, admired from a distance and not touched. Today we explore a whole new idea to buying and displaying art: Art in a vending machine.

Art in vending machines has been popping up all over the world in recent years but was first brought to the forefront in 1997 by Clark Whittington, in a small coffee shop in North Carolina. He repurposed a recently banned cigarette machine to sell 12 of his photographs during his solo show, calling it the Art-O-Mat. The owner loved the idea so much she asked to keep the machine and continue to sell artists' works. This is when the Artists in Cellophane (AIC), a collective committed to encouraging art consumption “by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form” through vending machines, was established. There are more than 100 Art-O-Mat’s all over the world and we are seeing more and more people, groups and organisations taking on the idea of selling art through vending machines.

Art-O-Mat, Located at Fuquay-Varina Arts Center

Art-O-Mat at Saint Kate Art Hotel

So what makes art out of vending machines so appealing?

It's something new, unexpected, convenient and a completely refreshed way of buying art.
For artists it's an easy, affordable way to sell their works that doesn’t involve gallery formalities, representation or complicated legal arrangements. For the public it's available, convenient, local and offers a chance to be creative in our everyday lives.

Pop Up UK gallery, The Art Vending Machine Gallery, had this exact idea - they sold art from cans in an effort to create a democratising way to buy art outside of gallery spaces. The idea is based on Pop Art Artist, Andy Warhol’s, concept of ‘Coke cans’ as a commodity that is experienced the same by all. Warhol said “A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.” The Vending Machine Art Gallery sees their Can art the same way.

Germany’s, Jewish Art Gallery also installed an art vending machine but instead of revealing the art inside, each package is labelled "Buy Me" in big letters. The buyer takes a mystery, lucky dip by putting some coins in the machine. This lures buyers to take part in the excitement of a surprise while supporting local artists.

The art vending machine in the permanent exhibition
Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

The Vending Machine Art Gallery, Brighton, UK.

The Vending Machine Art Gallery, Brighton, UK.

In Australia we are starting to see this revolution grow legs with emerging Adelaide based curator, Steph Cibich, displaying the first Adelaide Art Vending Machine ‘Crochet Your Character’, featuring work by Carly Snoswell at the Art Gallery of South Australia. As part of this project Steph started Art Vending Machines Australia (AVMA) with the goal of enabling artists an opportunity to 'take over' a recycled vending machine, respond to a public location and expand their practice. They pop-up for up to 3 months at a time and provide an alternative display space for audiences to engage with art.

We spoke to Steph this week about why and how AVMA started. Steph said that she was looking for a way to make art more accessible to the general public, in a new, exciting and unexpected way outside the typical gallery space. The point of AVMA is to activate new life in public spaces and allow everyone to experience art and connect with local and emerging artists.

Carly Snoswell 'Crochet your character' Curated by Steph Cibich, The Adelaide Art Vending Machine by AVMA, 2019. Photo by Rosina Possingham

Carly Snoswell 'Crochet your character' Curated by Steph Cibich, The Adelaide Art Vending Machine by AVMA, 2019. Photo by Rosina Possingham

At Art Pharmacy we are always looking at ways to enrich people's lives through art whether this be a public art sculpture, creative workshop or art dispensing vending machine. We are looking forward to seeing more art vending machines in public space as it not only benefits artists (by giving them an opportunity to sell, display and expand their artworks) but also the community at large.

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