On the dawn of Artificial Intelligence becoming mainstream in day to day life, big questions about its influence in the artworld loom large. From answering simple queries, to copywriting, to generating complete artworks, the possibilities of AI seem both inspiring and overwhelming. This week, we’re delving into the world of AI and providing an overview of the ground-breaking technologies integrating into the art world. We’ll help you through a crash course in understanding AI and some of the possibilities and issues that surround this new tool.

What is AI?

AI refers to the ability of machines or computer programs to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. It involves the development of algorithms and computer programs that can analyze and learn from data, and make decisions or predictions based on that learning.

AI has been used to create art through a technique called generative art. In this approach, an artist provides the algorithm or the computer program with a set of rules and instructions that the program will use to create a piece of art. These rules can include things like color choices, shapes, and composition. The program then generates a piece based on all of these instructions, pulling data from information available.

Shutterstock AI generator output based on text input

One of the popular AI techniques used in generative art is called neural style transfer. Neural style transfer involves using a deep neural network to apply the style of one image to another image. This technique can be used to create new art pieces by combining the content of one image with the style of another.

Another technique used in AI art is called GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks). GANs are a type of neural network that can learn to generate images by training on a large dataset of images. GANs work by having two neural networks compete with each other, where one network generates fake images and the other network tries to distinguish between the real and fake images. Through this process, the generator network learns to create more realistic images over time. In short, the more images are generated, the more data the program has to learn from and refine its process.

The Role of AI in the Creative Process

Although AI in art can be a powerful tool for creating new forms of art that may not have been possible with traditional techniques, it is important to note that the use of AI in art also raises important questions about authorship and creativity. Some artists use AI as a part of the artistic process, whereas others have opted to give control over to the machine entirely. In these latter cases, ethical questions of authorship arise.

Rather than succinct answers, however, the daily developments of AI have uncovered more questions and challenges to consider. For instance, who should be credited as the creator of AI-generated art? The artist who programmed the algorithm, the machine, or the AI system itself? This raises questions about intellectual property rights and the value of originality and creativity. Additionally, should artists be transparent with their use of AI-generated images? Just as writers cite their sources, should we treat AI in a similar fashion as the work may not be considered the artist’s own original output? Should we even identify AI-generated art as original or is it just a sophisticated imitation of other artists’ works?

Especially important to bear in mind is the impact of inherent bias in AI technologies. Nuance and sensitivity are not necessarily captured in data sets which can result in culturally insensitive and exclusionary works. AI algorithms and systems can perpetuate biases and stereotypes if they are not carefully designed and trained. This can result in art that reinforces harmful or discriminatory attitudes and representations.

The Impact of AI on Art Sales

As AI-generated art gains popularity, some are predicting that it could disrupt the traditional art market. AI has been used to personalize the art-buying experience for consumers. Some art marketplaces are using AI algorithms to recommend artworks based on a buyer’s preferences and past purchases. Marketplaces like 1stDibs, Artsy, and Saatchi all have suggestions based on your previous searches and interests which automatically generate. However, these tools may help create collecting vacuums rather than support the organic exploration and discovery of new artists and artworks. Although helpful to help collectors receive tailored suggestions, lesser known artists and movements may be getting passed over in favour of more popular searches based on the algorithms.

With more and more AI artists creating works, questions of shifting tastes and trends have also been raised–will collectors be willing to pay high prices for art that is created entirely by a machine, or will they prefer pieces that have been created by human artists?

If NFTs can teach us anything, it is that there is room at the table for new definitions of art, their transactional value and emerging collector bases. Already, new marketplace platforms designed exclusively for AI artists have emerged including the AI Art Shop, SaatchiArt and Artstation.

GIF courtesy of .ART adopter @eur42_eth

The Democratization of Art

AI can make it easier for artists to create and exhibit their work, which could lead to a greater diversity of voices and perspectives in the art world. AI can help artists to create art faster, cheaper, and with non conventional skills rather than the formal and intensive art training typically acquired.

AI can create art that is a hybrid of different art forms, such as visual art and music. This could lead to new forms of multimedia art that challenge traditional distinctions between art forms and push the envelope on the definitions of art. As a tool, AI can be used to facilitate collaborations between artists and machines, where the machine shares the creative work and creates deeper dialog between human and machine intelligence.

The Role of AI in Art Curation

As museums and galleries begin to incorporate AI tools into their collections, it may become easier to identify and showcase previously overlooked artists and styles as the data set grows. More than simply being able to choose artworks of similar formal qualities, AI can be used to monitor and maintain artworks, such as detecting signs of deterioration or damage, helping to preserve artworks for future generations.

Based on more information and feedback from visitors to exhibitions, AI can also be used to design exhibitions, including the layout of artworks and the use of lighting and other visual elements. This can help to create a more immersive, accessible, and engaging art experience for visitors.

All of these possibilities with AI can encourage a more personalized experience for a targeted demographic, resulting in higher engagement rates with the community and expanding the range of visitors to an institution. Coupled with strong leadership, AI can help maximize the potential of a curatorial vision for institutions and develop robust programming.

AI can be used to analyze the art market and identify emerging artists or trends. This can help curators more efficiently to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the art world and to make informed decisions about acquisitions and exhibitions.

Dalle-E variation on the subject of ancient sculptures with laptops

The Impact of AI on Art Education

As AI-generated art becomes more prevalent, it may be necessary to incorporate new forms of artistic training into traditional art education programs. A basic understanding of AI technology will be fundamental for artists should they wish to incorporate this technology into their practice. This includes knowledge of machine learning algorithms, programming languages, and data analysis.

A step further, artists will also need to develop skills in collaborating with AI systems in order to create new forms of art. This includes working with AI algorithms to generate new ideas, using AI tools to enhance traditional art techniques, and incorporating AI-generated content into their work.

However, artists will also need to continue to think critically when working with AI tools. As we discussed, biases, stereotypes, misinformation and factual inaccuracies can seep into AI generated information based on inaccurate public information that it pulls from. While AI can assist in the creative process, it cannot replace the unique perspective and creativity of human artists. Artists will need to continue to develop their critical thinking and creativity skills in order to create art that is distinctive and meaningful.

An openness to experiment, adaptability, and agility with AI tools will be a necessity for artists to develop their practices in the world of AI art.

With the rise of online marketplaces and social media, artists will need to develop business and marketing skills in order to promote and sell their work in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Particularly in more volatile markets of new technologies in the art world, taking risks with new platforms and transactional methods to learn from will also be realities for artists in the (near) future.

Where are we going with AI?

AI can analyze existing artwork, learn from it, create new pieces based on that knowledge and even make predictions about which artworks will be popular with audiences. AI-powered algorithms can also analyze large amounts of data helping artists to automate some of their more mundane tasks. This could lead to more personalized and tailored art exhibitions, as well as more effective marketing strategies for art events.

How do we move forward responsibly with this technology, however? As AI-powered technologies continue to refine, streamline, and automate processes throughout traditional business models, what does that mean for the human aspect of the artworld? Will a machine be the new curator du-jour?!

AI technology, though game-changing for many mundane repetitive tasks rooted in data analysis, would not necessarily replace the need for human roles. In the artworld, critical thinking, perspective, opinion, emotional and social intelligence, and good old-fashioned creativity is something that will continue to be a necessity and can only be satisfied by human positions.

While many of the leading forces behind AI, including Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak, have called for a pause on AI developments until strategic plans are in pace to develop responsibly, it is no question that the effects of AI in the artworld will be felt widely throughout the global art market.

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