Art to Go

An old vending machine

This is what the vending machine looked like originally.
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Gelia Eisert

Usually a museum is a place where you can contemplate art from a safe distance. Today, with the mounting of our Art Vending Machine in our permanent exhibition, that will change: now you can put 4 euros in the coin slot, and own a piece of art from the museum!
If you’re imagining a high-tech machine that produces art, when you read the words “Art Vending Machine,” or something like a soda machine, where you can pick and choose from a selection, you’re on the wrong track. Our Art Vending Machine has a supply of small-scale artworks that were created by artists especially for it.

Since a device of this kind isn’t commercially available, I bid online for an old vending machine from the 1970s. I found one in a sports center in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany and had it transported to us from there.

Design of a white vending machine with the inscription "Art"

After its modification, the vending machine should look like this.
© Design: Hanno Dannenfeldt

Following the machine’s arrival, the graphic designer Hanno Dannenfeldt worked on a concept for reconfiguring it, since it’s meant to be not only a container for artworks tucked into all the little shelves, but itself part of the exhibition. The design, called “Hanging,” dresses the automat in a simple white coat of paint with an eye-catching black inscription. It’s strung up on the wall with pink slackline cables.

The next steps of this procedure raised some unusual questions for me as a museum employee: can slacklines – which are normally used to walk tightrope between two trees – even be used for such a purpose? Could the vending machine be damaged while we’re trying to fasten it to the wall? Who lacquers such an unusual object? Who can retrofit an old automat to take euros instead of Deutschmarks and test its features to be sure they function?

Fortunately, I found specialists to answer all of my questions and concerns: a young, dynamic slackline company gave us advice on how to mount the machine to the wall; a paintshop – neighbors of the museum, by chance – gave the vending machine a whole new look; and an inventive vending machine builder adjusted the mechanics, taking it apart and putting it back together more than once, welding on a lightbox and setting the machine to accept euros.

A white vending machine with the inscription "Art", strung up on the wall with pink slackline cables

This is how the vending machine looks now.
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Stephan Klonk

The most important question of all, during the preparation period, was however: where will I find artists who want to participate in this project?
In Berlin there are, as you probably know, many aspiring artist full of exciting ideas. But you can’t just look up “Jewish artist in Berlin” online and find them. The key is personal contacts, and here I knew that my colleagues at the museum could help me. I was indeed pointed first to two artists who then brought others on board. ‘Word of mouth’ was the concept underlying the Art Vending Machine.

The seven artists who have now developed work for the vending machine were completely free in their choice of materials and design. There was only one condition: the pieces of art had to fit in the machine’s shelves. Despite this constraint, the works that emerged are very various in form, color, and material, as you can see in the slide show on our website. The pieces have been commissioned in a limited batch of 50 and are signed by the artists. They’re packaged in ‘surprise bags’ with additional information inside and can now be found in the vending machine. The 4 euros that you spend on a work of art go to the artist.

If you would like to learn more about the individual pieces and artists, continue to follow this blog in the coming weeks. If that’s too long to wait, the best solution is to come by the museum and buy a work of art yourself from the Art Vending Machine. You will find it in the stairwell of the first floor in the permanent exhibition.

Christiane Bauer, Exhibitions

PS: You will find more photographs of the Art Vending Machine on our Facebook page.

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