Sunday, 25 January 2015

Why I love Woolgather art vending machines

I first found an art vending machine several months ago on a trip to The Tetley Gallery in my hometown of Leeds.  Tiny Magpie was immediately drawn to the retro-style oversized gumball machine in the foyer (ok, I was too) so we had a closer look.  Instead of sweets or rubbishy toys, the brightly coloured balls turned out to contain tiny artworks which we could buy for just a £1!  We had to give that a go.

The vending machines are provided by Woolgather, who in 2013 commissioned new works from artists across the UK to be distributed to the public via their vending machines.  The works of art had to be small enough to fit inside variously sized plastic capsules.

On a drizzly day in December, while Christmas shopping, Tiny Magpie & I stumbled upon something a bit wonderful: a Woolgather pop-up exhibition in a shop in central Leeds, full of Art Vend machines!  Examples of the diminutive artworks, which hide inside those mysterious machines, were exhibited on simple wooden tables accompanied by brief artist statements.

'Love resonates. Fortune is in your hands' by Miss Pybis

We spent some time looking at all the little artworks & talking about them, then we got the coins out.  We bought three capsules that visit, each from a different vending machine.  Two were chosen at random as Christmas gifts for my brother & his wife.  The third was for keeps.

Our capsule contained a work by Jo Marsh.  It comprised of a delicate little paper birdbox and a tiny plastic egg which opens to reveal a picture of a child saying hello.  It's utterly adorable and I have to confess I have no idea what it's about.

Our paper birdbox & egg made by Jo Marsh

I think the thing I love most about the Art Vend project is that it's accessible, cheap, whimsical and thought-provoking.  I mean, why should art have to be rarified and distant?  Why shouldn't engaging with art be fun and playful?  Some of the pieces are charming.  Some are intriguing.  Some are surreal.  Some are downright weird.  The thrill, of course, is in not knowing what you'll find when you pop open your capsule.  However, encountering one of the machines always makes me giggle excitedly and my inner child shrieks "Can I have one? Can I? Can I? Can I?"

If you find one of these machines I urge you to give it a try.

You can find out more about Woolgather's Art Vend project here:
You can join the Woolgather website by using #woolgatherart through twitter or instagram with your pictures of the artwork you discover inside.

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