Origins of LA's Mysterious Matchstick Art Revealed

The citywide art project was also a marketing campaign for a new photo sharing feature on dating app Tinder

The mystery of the matchsticks has been solved.

Oversized - up to 8 feet tall - handmade matchsticks have been popping up all over LA in places like Venice Beach, Laurel Canyon, Hollywood and Silver Lake in the last few weeks, emblazoned with #moments.

They’ve been all over social media with dozens of Instagram pictures and tweets about them from unsuspecting joggers who stumbled upon a trio of them up at Runyon Canyon and diners who noticed one laid outside a Westside restaurant.

On Thursday, the matchstick blitz made its last stop with a big drop at Venice Beach - a giant matchbox bearing the logo of dating app company Tinder, filled with a dozen more matchsticks, and marked #tindermoments.

Part art installation, part marketing campaign, the weeks-long project was staged by artist Manny Castro, whose previous work includes hanging thousands of ruby slippers across power lines throughout the city, tires painted as giant doughnuts distributed around town and oversized bags of fake cocaine affixed to telephone poles at major intersections.

Combining art and marketing, the project was also partly a marketing campaign for the launch of Moments, Tinder’s answer to photo sharing.

"It came about really organically," Castro said of the project. "I bumped into one of the founders (of Tinder) and thought of a way we could do something like this."

Until recently, users could only message with dating “matches” and were clamoring for a way to send images, according to co-founder Justin Mateen.

Similar to photo sharing app Snapchat, the images will disappear in 24 hours.

“This is a way to add the photo sharing feature in a fun and lightweight manner,” Mateen said by phone from the beach, where he was watching beach goers play with the oversized matches. “We think this will allow our users to feel comfortable.”

Consensus on social media in the weeks the matchsticks were appearing was that it was a giant interactive art project, although there was speculation they could be anti-smoking PSAs or a marketing campaign. People rearranged them, sought them out and took lots of photos with them.

“It was really exciting to see people engage, interact, play with them, make it a part of what they wanted it to be,” Castro, the artist, said of the campaign. He said the project was more than just a marketing ploy, although he was prepared for some people to criticize the connection.

“It’s more than just an ad campaign,” he said. “It’s everything. It’s social, it’s magic.” 

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