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Art-o-mat: Art From a Vending Machine


by Manuel Mendoza 20 Aug 2008

Small artwork affordable to the masses, some of it factory-produced and some handmade. We’ve written about this phenomenon before and love stumbling on to new examples. The latest? Art-o-mat, a cigarette vending machine converted to dispense cigarette-box-size art for $4 to $7. Actually, the Art-o-mat has been around for a decade, the product of a […]

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Small artwork affordable to the masses, some of it factory-produced and some handmade. We’ve written about this phenomenon before and love stumbling on to new examples. The latest? Art-o-mat, a cigarette vending machine converted to dispense cigarette-box-size art for $4 to $7. Actually, the Art-o-mat has been around for a decade, the product of a Winston-Salem, N.C., artist. How appropriate.

North Texas just got its first, one of only 80-some in the country (including one at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York). It was delivered last week to art251, a brand-new gallery in Keller. “Typically, gallery goers get this impression that all the art is too expensive,” says Mike Gerra, who owns art251 with his wife, Kim Fowler Gerra. “Art-o-mat is a way for us to debunk that myth, to make art more accessible.”

The gallery will hold a series of grand openings from Sept. 13 to 27 and plans to have Art-o-mat creator Clark Whittington in town for a couple of days.

With a few bucks and the pull of a knob, you can start an art collection or build on those artist trading cards and designer toys you’ve been gathering. Like ATCs and anime-inspired art toys, the Art-o-mat blends Industrial-Age commerce with the 21st Century idea of a personalized art experience.

About 400 artists have pieces in the machines. If you’re interested in participating, there’s a submission process.

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  • Painting is a less popular art form than say music, films, or books. Part of that is that paintings have yet to be mass produced like music, films, or books.
    This post above is one idea – though a somewhat complicated one when it comes to submissionl.
    What I’ve written about is more like a record store but for artworks. And it is much simpler and easier for anyone to set up.
    The owner of the art store, asks any artist to bring work in. Favorites are photocopied and sold like record copies for about the price of a CD.
    Unlike a gallery, this art store would have thousands of works by thousands of artists. And artists would get a percentage of every work sold, much like musicians get a percentage of every cd sold. Also museums could sell copies of their works all over the world. And because copies are not fragile, we will soon be able to send copies of major artists work to every town everywhere. Like I’ve written before, imagine seeing copies of every art work Van Gogh did in one traveling show.
    I think we’ll hear a lot more in the future about these type of new ideas about art.

  • Jeez! We’ve had one in Screwston for like a decade. It’s over at Diverseworks.

  • Yes, as I said, the project started a decade ago. In Texas, we have art-o-mats in Austin, Amarillo, Houston, San Antonio and now Keller. Here’s a complete list of locations around the country and the world: http://www.artomat.org/machinesbystate.php