Cigarette vending machines used to be a very popular way to dispense tobacco products, especially in bars and restaurants. But too many little kiddies figured out they too could coax cancer sticks from these machines, so now they're illegal except in very specific, over-21 situations. This left thousands of establishments with bulky vending machines they could no longer use. Fortunately, a clever artist out in North Carolina had a vision for these former health hazards. Clark Whittington of North Carolina-based Artists in Cellophane turns vintage cigarette vending machines into miniature art galleries, bringing original works of art to the masses at the pull of a lever.
Whittington crafted his first Art-O-Mat vending machine way back in 1997. It was installed along with 12 of his paintings at a cafe art show. The cafe owner loved the machine so much, she insisted it remain behind when the show ended. That first Art-O-Mat machine sold Whittington’s black & white photographs for $1.00 each.
Now there are over 100 Art-o-mat locations around the world (mainly in the United States) and the art inside each machine belongs to a whole host of artists eager to have people enjoy their work, even if it’s in miniature. Each machine is a gorgeous example of industrial design over the past few decades. They’ve all been restored and filled with everything from tiny hand-stiched books to minuscule sculptures made by 400 artists around the world. Want to submit your work to Art-O-Mat? Click here.