Art in a box - Ro-Nalt Schrauwen

An art-filled box causes people to connect

Ten years ago, artist Ro-Nalt Schrauwen discovered an old cigarette vending machine in Potsdam (Berlin) that contained little boxes filled with art. The machine dispensed a small art-filled box for four euro. “I am going to do the same thing”, Ro-Nalt thought determinedly.

And that is exactly what he did. A decade later, the first art-in-a-box vending machines can be found in Tilburg. Ro-Nalt: “First, I went looking for a vending machine on Next, I made the boxes. Other artists in the studio made the first works of art for the boxes. After a successful visit to the Art Market in the Nieuwlandstraat, I pitched the project to the Awesome Foundation Tilburg. With the money that I received, I was able to continue. The very first vending machine was placed at the Gianotten-Mutsaers bookstore. Other vending machines were placed at cafe Bolle and BANK15. I thought 400 boxes would be enough, but while I was busy preparing it became apparent that I needed much more. It didn’t take long before my story became national news.”

 Artists get the opportunity to present themselves

Tilburg is home to some 350 artists, 45 of them are involved with project Art-in-a-Box. “I approached some of the artists, others responded to the newspaper article. Not everyone knew each other prior to the project, but the concept connects people.” Art-in-a-Box is a fantastic way to promote regional art. “Very often, art is inaccessible to people because it is expensive. An art-filled box that cost four euro makes it accessible. A small piece of art allows the artist to promote himself. The concept also works well because people love surprises and they love to save. It is like a chocolate surprise egg.”

New partnerships

Art-in-a-Box is more than just an art-filled box from a vending machine. It is a conversation starter and it leads to new partnerships. Now that the first art-filled boxes have found their way into people’s homes, Ro-Nalt is ready for new opportunities. “This September, I am organising a swap meet during Dear Future, a festival aimed at Social Innovation.” In this respect, the project fits perfectly with Tilburg.


His own museum in Tilburg

Ro-Nalt’s ambition is to put vending machines in every region in the country so that local artists can promote their art via Art-in-a-Box. Five regions already have art-in-a-box vending machines. Before the end of the year, this number will be doubled, or even tripled. “It would be absolutely fantastic to have a museum with art-filled boxes in a couple of years. That museum must obviously be located in Tilburg.”

The product can be seen as part of the exhibition 'Tilburg and its makers' at Hotel Mercure, Heuvelpoort 300, Tilburg.