Dispensing Art To All: Art Vend @ Oriel Wrecsam


Think you could make tiny artworks to sell from special vending machines? Oriel Wrecsam is looking for artists across the UK to do just that…

Lucozade, jelly beans, bouncy balls, condoms… We’ve all bought something from a vending machine. But what about art? Tiny, limited edition artworks in plastic capsules? “Anything that can bring art to the masses”, says artist Alan Whitfield, “is great.”

Whitfield was one of the first artists to be commissioned for Oriel Wrecsam’s Art Vend project: creating miniature masterpieces to be sold for £1 each from special vending machines. Placed in public spaces, Art Vend has this year migrated from Wrexham town centre to Edinburgh Art Festival and Llandudno Arts Weekend, with plans to travel to Cardiff and Liverpool in the near future. Artworks so far have included limited edition prints, dolls, ceramic sculptures and handmade books; Whitfield made branded USB sticks on which he stored poetry, photographs and soundscapes. They are almost like mini time capsules.

“I have seen the dispensing machines in several places across Wales now”, Whitfield continues. “They always make me smile.”

“Art Vend is the ultimate travelling gallery”

The idea, says Oriel Wrecsam’s gallery assistant James Harper, originated at the Woolgrather arts space in Leeds (check their madcap promo video). Oriel Wrecsam loved it so much they wanted to bring it to Wales. Specifically, using Art Vend to continue to exhibit art during their move out of Rhosddu Road and into a new cultural hub in Wrexham.

“Over the next few months Oriel Wrecsam’s Art Vend project will be expanded,” Harper says, “with new artworks being commissioned and additional machines added to the fleet. These will be sited in a wide variety of public places, and moved around regularly as part of Oriel Wrecsam’s mission to make contemporary art accessible to all.”

Art Vend is the ultimate travelling gallery: introducing commissioned artists to a broader audience, and to those (most importantly) that might not normally venture into a gallery. This is, for many, a chance to buy and own art for the first time.

And in that sense, Art Vend is also a real challenge to artists. Those selected will have to make 50 artist multiples for an inclusive fee of £50; so each work must be small enough to fit inside a plastic capsule and cost no more than £1 to make. It probably goes without saying that innovative thinking is called for.

I think the project has been brilliant. It’s a great way to distribute your craft in a unconventional way”

It was, continues Whitfield, a problem that he enjoyed solving. “Originally I was going to set up a web page with a QR code in the capsule. However, to fit the brief, I was lacking a solid object. This then led me to source the whereabouts of 256MB USB sticks. These are basically like hen’s teeth now. I found a job lot of them in strangely my home town Widnes.”

Once made and installed in the vending machine on Wrexham’s high street, Whitfield’s mini artworks were all snapped up during a grand opening and by curious passers by. It’s a bizarre concept to those who may be more familiar with selling larger artworks at a, ahem, larger price; we wonder whether he, on reflection, thought it was worth it?

I think the project has been brilliant,” Whitfield confirms. “It’s a great way to distribute your craft in a unconventional way. I think once artists can get over the challenge of thinking inside the capsule, rather than outside the box, the world is your oyster…”

Laura Robertson

Think you could be one of Oriel Wrecsam’s ArtVend artists? All you need to do is send a brief description of why you want to take part (max 200 words), plus up to six images of your work and a link to your website, to: Oriel.learning@wrexham.gov.uk

Deadline: Sunday 8 November 2015

Find out more about Art Vend at www.artvend.co.uk — including documentation of all the works submitted in rounds one and two

Posted on 03/11/2015 by thedoublenegative