Maggots, Cookies, Art

Of all the things you can get from a vending machine…

The maggot vending machine

The “maggot vending machine” in Berlin Wedding (further information (in German only) on “Der Wedding. Das Magazin für Alltagskultur”); CC-BY Gelia Eisert

Vending machines sell us a lot of the things we might need (or believe we need) through the day: drinks, sweets, cigarettes, inner tubes for bike tires, toothbrushes, and even anglers’ “supplies.” This last offer surprised me as a non-angler awhile back in the Berlin neighborhood of Wedding, starting with the lovely label “maggots.” I always make sure to take visiting guests by and show them too. As none of them are fishermen, they are always as startled as I was.

I myself would rather pay into the “cookie bank” to get something delicious out of the cookie vending machine at the gallery-and-café-filled “Kunsthof” courtyard on Oranienburger Straße in Berlin’s Mitte district. The cookie bank is a way to support people searching for their “dream job,” an occupation they can use their greatest talents professionally.

The cookie vending machine in Berlin Mitte.

The museum isn’t blind to this trend. In fact, since August of 2013 we have had a beautiful historic vending machine with a modern design and fresh paint job, installed in the middle of the permanent exhibition. But what we offer stands out from the everyday items one usually sees: contemporary art, created in small batches specifically for the vending machine. We want to make the acquisition of art accessible to all. The buyers of these artworks should receive a refreshing insight into the artistic work of Berlin-based Jewish artists who hail originally from all over the world. We only committed ourselves to one thing, the magic number 7. For every new round of vending machine art, we collect work from 7 different artists. We don’t propose particular themes in order not to limit their artistic freedom, but the work should relate in some way or other to our museum and the permanent exhibition.

The Art Vending Machine

Our Art Vending Machine in the permanent exhibition; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Once the pieces sell out, we pause for breath and then commission a large new batch of artworks to have on offer. Since interest in the small works has been so great, we have had to ask artists from year to year for more and more series, occupying ever more of their artistic efforts: for this round we acquired 3,000 works of art. We also decided to raise the price per item from 4 to 6 Euro, so that the lovingly-produced pieces will be monetarily more appreciated by the purchasers. The proceeds go directly to the artists, who receive additional remuneration from the museum, since art can’t exactly be produced for 4 to 6 Euro.

Let them surprise you:

–    Birgit Naomi Glatzel ( and Benjamin Seide (, art film “Going to Jerusalem”
–    Birgit Naomi Glatzel, photograph “Angela and Me,” part of the series “You and Me”
–    Daniela Orvin, photo series “Dyslexic Dysgraphia,” four motifs (
–    David Benforado, oil paintings “Abstract bits from the ‘Painting Makams’ series” and “Abstract bits from the ‘Between Sound and Silence’ series” (
–    Joachim Seinfeld, photographs, series “HeimatReisen” (homeland journey), six motifs (
–    Noga Shteiner, photographs from “Twins: Duo Morality” (
–    Rachel Kohn, ceramics “100 Chairs, 100 Houses” (; in German only)
–    Shira Wachsmann, art postcards “Liebe Grüße aus Namibia” (Best wishes from Namibia) (

Further information about all artworks and the Art Vending Machine on our website.

Gelia Eisert loves art, but not exclusively that from vending machines.

Leave a comment