Vending machines gives you cool drinks, small packs of chips, and chocolate bars, but some special vending machines can also give you art; real art-- we're talking 100 percent handmade, original art. At the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 5 dollars gives you a small piece of art that fits in a cigarette box.
Art-o-mat, the cigarette vending machines transformed art vending machine, is quite fun to use. They're not those electronic vending machines where you press numbers to get what you want, it's good, old man power with a solid pull of the knob. Looking at Art-o-mat's official website and FB page, you see all these different art-o-mats, and many of them are quite beautiful. Not restricted to tall glass cases of black and cool silver, the old vending machines can be any color and shape.
According to Art-o-mat's official webpage,
Our mission is to encourage art consumption by expanding access to artists’ work. Art*-o-mat® has created an opportunity to purchase original artwork while providing exposure and promotional support for artists. Art-o-mat® combines the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. We believe that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable. What better way to do this, than with a heavy cold steel machine?It's a lovely surprise what you get as well, as the art work is sealed in a little box. You only get to see the name of the art work, and sometimes it doesn't really tell what's inside. I pulled the knob for "Bird in a Box" and got this lovely bird pin. It's a collage work, and I believe the background is a stamped pattern, with some cracking paint at the bottom layer. It was such a fun surprise that I had to pull another knob! I don't remember exactly what the second knob I pulled was called, something like "Collage and Curiosities" I think, and I got a collage work on a piece of wood. Both the art pieces I got were really nice and I love them both, 5 dollars for a piece of original art is affordable, and with the artist contact information included with the art, I was curious to see other works (larger works) done by the artist on their websites. So the artist has successfully promoted their work to more people via the art-o-mat.
|The artwork I got from the art-o-mat.|
And now let's also talk about the museum the Art-O-Mat is located--The American Art Museum. The building also houses the National Portrait Gallery (which by the way, opens till 7, unlike other museums that close at 5), so it's two museums in one. To be honest the portrait gallery wasn't exactly my taste, there were a lot of portraits of important figures in American history, such as Civil War generals, and the President Gallery, but since American history isn't of my particular interest, the portraits didn't keep me for too long.
|Somewhere in the National Portrait Gallery|
|Outside the museum, enjoying some good sun|
On the other hand, I did spend more time at the American Art museum. The museum has paintings and sculptures of different genres, so it was nice to see. But since they are all American artists, it doesn't go too far back in time, so if you like the really classical stuff, there isn't much in here. I'll admit I didn't spend that much time there since I visited Hishhorn museum before coming to American Art & National Portrait. My favorite art museum in D.C. is still the National Gallery of Art, I haven't written about it because I didn't get to finish the whole place last.
|Hishhorn museum, B1 floor.|
Hishhorn, by the way, did not have that many things on display, the entire third floor was sealed. Since the museum is a circle, it's harder to get lost. Follow the long hallways to see modern sculptures, photography, and media art.
Then I went for dinner, wearing my new bird pin, at a Vietnamese restaurant, sitting at the bar and eating pho. I've never had pho while looking at bottles of alcohol and a bartender at work, interesting experience. And they offered avocado flavored bubble tea, I don't understand how that works.