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An art-o-mat machine in the Yellowstone Art Museum.

Art-o-mat machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art.[1][2][3][4] They were invented by artist Clark Whittington.[5][6][7]

The inspiration for Art-o-mat came to Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane.[5][8] When Whittington's friend heard someone opening a snack, he had the uncontrollable urge to have one too.

After moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Whittington was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie (now Di Lisio's Italian Restaurant).[5] This is when Whittington used a recently banned cigarette machine to create the first Artomat.[5] The show opened in June 1997 and the original machine was installed along with 12 of his assemblage paintings.[5] The machine sold Whittington's black & white photographs for $1.00 each.[5]

This art show was scheduled to be dismantled in July 1997; however, Cynthia Giles (owner of the Penny Universitie) loved the machine and asked that it stay permanently.[5] Clark felt that the machine would create a conflict in the space unless it was open to artists in the community. Giles then introduced Whittington to a handful of other local artists, and Artists in Cellophane was formed. As of July 2018, there were over 100 machines around the world[9] and over 400 artists involved.[5][4][10][11] Six of the machines are featured at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.[12]


  1. ^ "INSERT MONEY, RETRIEVE ART, ART-O-MAT MACHINES OFFER MINIATURE PAINTINGS, SCULPTURE". The Charlotte Observer. March 5, 2003. Retrieved 2009-03-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Clark, Kathy (March 2, 2006). "DISPENSABLE ART". Greensboro News and Record. Retrieved 2009-03-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Flannigan, Kathy (October 23, 2003). "Artists offer eye candy at low cost". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-03-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b Miller, Nicole M. (June 14, 2001). "Warning: Contents May Be Habit Forming". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-03-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Freund, Charles Paul (June 2003). "The pull of culture - Artifact - Clark Whittington's Artomat - Brief Article". Reason. Retrieved 2009-03-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Art-O-Mat Aims For Collectors". CBS News. February 25, 2003. Retrieved 2009-02-28. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "About | Art-o-mat®". Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  8. ^ Roberts, Frank (July 20, 2008). "This vending machine artwork is really smokin'". Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 2009-03-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Cigarette vending machine now dispenses tiny works of art". CBC News. 2018-07-24. Retrieved 2018-07-26. Myka Burke, who founded Artspace613, told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning there are more than 400 artists who contribute works for more than 100 Art-o-mats around the world.
  10. ^ Elder, Robert K. (2003-03-05). "It's Art! ; It's Cheap! It's . . .; At five bucks a pop, anyone can be a patron of the arts". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-03-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ Frostick, Dana. "". Retrieved 28 June 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ Peterson, Kristen (2010-12-16). "Cosmo's Art-O-Mat machines offer up $5 works of art". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 2017-11-02.

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