{Germany} The Kunstautomat – Art from a Vending Machine

August 22, 2014


Earlier this week, I marked my three year Berlin-aversary by attending a relaunch at the Jewish Museum Berlin of the ‘Kunstautomat’, which first appeared in the permanent exhibition in August 2013. Behind each of the 60 doors of the 1970s vintage vending machine, a piece of art awaits visitors willing to part with 4 Euros. Each of the pieces has been specially created for the Kunstautomat by international Jewish artists living in Berlin. The twist in the matter is, that you can’t see what’s behind each door – so it’s a complete surprise, which artist and artwork you end up with!

Jewish Museum - Jüdisches Museum - Berlin - Kunstautomat - art vending machine

In its first year, the Kunstautomat featured seven artists from Russia, Israel, Germany, Australia, England and the USA. Each contributed 200 unique pieces, making a total of 1,400 artworks awaiting visitors willing to take the risk. This week, after the stock of original artworks had come to an end, seven new international artists from Argentina, Israel, Russia, Germans and Australia, now living in Berlin, were inaugurated in to the vending machine, contributing another 1,4000 limited editions. The Kunstautomat regularly gets refilled, and you can tell which doors still hold a surprise behind them, by the black, white and pink cards challenging visitors to ‘Buy Me!”

Jewish Museum - Jüdisches Museum - Berlin - Kunstautomat - art vending machine

You don’t just get the piece of art itself though, but also a leaflet containing information on the artwork, the series it is from – if relevant – and the artists themselves. The information is printed in both German and English. And this year, for the first time, a display next to the Kunstautomat gives some information on the artists and the unique works they have created for the vending machine. However, while this does narrow it down for visitors and perhaps helps them to decide whether or not they want to take the risk, what you eventually end up with is still a complete surprise. Options this year include screen prints, postcards, photographs, wood cuts, miniature sculptures, and key rings made from cut up bowling balls.

Jewish Museum - Jüdisches Museum - Berlin - Kunstautomat - art vending machine

You can always swap with other visitors, of course. I initially pulled out one of the silk prints out of the screen pints from the Argentinian artist Victor Alaluf’s series ‘Essence’. A group of ladies from New York who had tried out the vending machine just before me exclaimed how beautiful they thought it was, and that it was artist they had been hoping to get, after looking at the ‘sneak peek’ display. They had pulled out one of the urban photographs from Israel born artist Ruthe Zuntz’s series ‘PHOTOMAT: Challenging WallMAT’, and since I have a soft spot for urban photography, I was happy to swap with them.

Jewish Museum - Jüdisches Museum - Berlin - Kunstautomat - art vending machine

Some people may think the idea of the Kunstautomat is just a gimmick, others I have heard comment that the idea is not new, but personally I thought this was a great way to introduce visitors to new, contemporary artists. I certainly had never heard about any of them before, and this caught my attention way more than a traditional display in the gallery would have. I have to admit, I was also attracted by the thrill of the surprise effect, and although I love to buy souvenirs from my museum visits, I would probably not have picked this up in the gift shop. This way though, I have ended up with something quite unique – a limited edition artwork created uniquely for the Kunstautomat – and it definitely beats coming home with yet another magnet, pen or tote bag!

Jewish Museum - Jüdisches Museum - Berlin - Kunstautomat - art vending machine

If you are visiting the Jewish Museum Berlin and are interested in checking out the Kunstautomat, you will find it in the ‘Stehcafe’ area on the 1st floor of the permanent exhibition. Just look out for the bright pink banners running along the wall, and you won’t miss it! And don’t forget to bring some coins – you will need either four 1 Euro coins or two 2 Euro coins.



  1. Happy Berlin-iversary & art from a vending machine! | The Ex-Expat - October 23, 2014

    […] You can find out all about it over on Museum Diary! […]

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