Among the more interesting relationships Cosmopolitan formed in its quest to be outlandishly unique is the one with Art-O-Mat, a Winston-Salem company that revamps cigarette machines into slick dispensers of $5 art. Six of the Art-O-Mat machines will be planted throughout the $3.9 billion resort, selling original miniature works from around the globe — prints, painting, sculptures, jewelry, etc.
“This is going to test us in a good way,” says Art-O-Mat founder Clark Whittington, who refers to his company as a “garage/basement operation” (it’s just him and two part-time employees). “We’re not really set up for mass hysteria, and I have a feeling that these machines are going to be very active.”
Art-O-Mat machines already move nearly 25,000 works of art annually, vending in coffee shops, galleries and museums, including New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. Whittington says most machines feature as many as 132 artists apiece and are revamped with a high-end finish for a classic and beautiful look.
He’s hoping Las Vegas artists will want to include their art and help keep the machines filled (as in a gallery, artists get a cut). The machines, he says, serve as an introduction to artists’ larger works; contact information comes with the artwork. An artist himself, Whittington says he’s never been a proponent of mixing art and money, but sees as Art-O-Mat a good way to reach out to people normally not exposed to art: “We want you to have an experience and learn about a living artist.”