Clark Whittington, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina came up with the concept in 1997. The inspiration for Art*o*mat came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane. When Whittington's friend heard someone opening a snack, he had the uncontrollable urge to have one too.
Early that year, he found a banned/abandoned cigarette vending machine and decided to include it in a solo art exhibition at Penny Universitie, a local cafe. In June 1997, it was installed, along with 12 of his paintings. The machine sold Whittington's black & white Polaroid photographs for $1.00 each. This cafe was open during late night hours on weekends. It was documented that several people, under the influence, purchased art unwittingly.
At the time the exhibit was set to be dismantled, cafe owner Cynthia Giles liked the concept so much she asked for the machine to remain. With her help Whittington began soliciting input and projects from other artists. Today there are 90 machines throughout the United States United Kingdom, Austria and Canada, with over 400 artists from 10 different countries participating to the project. To this day, the original Art-O-Mat machine is at the same cafe, now called Mary's Of Course.
Machines are set to sell pieces from $5.00 to $7.00, by purchasing a special token made for each Art-o-mat machine. The forms of art vary greatly and can include anything from original paintings or pastel sketches, homemade earrings, cast metal works to sculpture created from recycled styrofoam cups.
Artists in Cellophane (A.I.C.), the sponsoring organization of Art*o*mat, is based on the concept of taking art and "repackaging" it to make it part of our daily lives. Clark continues to manage operations of A.I.C. while producing several new machines per year. He lives and works in Winston-Salem, NC.
A.I.C. maintains the registered trademark for Art-o-mat in the U.S, E.U and Canada.