The intersection of AI and art: Exploring the future of AI-generated art exhibits

AI is impacting everything, including art. Let's explore the future of AI-generated art in exhibits, galleries, and museums.
Tejasri Gururaj
Image generated by DALL-E 2 based on the existing artwork "Girl With a Pearl Earring"
Image generated by DALL-E 2 based on the existing artwork "Girl With a Pearl Earring"

Webbnet/Wikimedia Commons 

As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly sophisticated, it is likely to become a part of almost every aspect of our day-to-day life. From education and finance to healthcare, art, and entertainment, we see AI making exciting contributions to different sectors. 

OpenAI has demonstrated that it is capable of making ground-breaking AI technology with the release of ChatGPT. In 2021, they also announced another new platform built on their GPT architecture, called “DALL-E,” which was capable of generating images from input prompts given by the user. DALL-E and its successor DALL-E 2 have caused quite a stir in the art world, demonstrating that creativity in art no longer requires the ability to use traditional artist's tools and materials, such as paint and pen, or even to have any artistic talent.

AI is changing the way we create and perceive art, with AI-generated art now being showcased in galleries and museums. So, let's take a closer look at what the fuss is all about. And what are the concerns designers and artists have about the growth of AI-generated art?

What is AI-generated art?

The intersection of AI and art: Exploring the future of AI-generated art exhibits
The Next Rembrandt project's final result

Art, of course, comes in many forms, including painting, music, video, and poetry. When referring to AI-generated art, we usually mean any piece of visual art that is created with the help of AI generators. These generators use machine learning algorithms and deep neural networks to analyze large amounts of pre-existing art (large data sets) to find and learn from patterns and styles in the data, which it can then use to generate new artwork. 

One of the ways AI can be used to generate art is by producing artwork similar to that of a particular artist or style. Typically, artists must study a variety of techniques and styles of art for years before settling into their own style. AI algorithms, on the other hand, can learn relatively quickly from a large amount of data and produce artwork similar to that of the artist who has studied and worked for years.

For example, The Next Rembrandt is a project used to create a portrait that resembles the style of the Dutch painter Rembrandt. The team trained the AI algorithm with data from Rembrandt's works in order to generate a new and distinct artwork. This would not have been possible without the use of AI to sift through data and learn the patterns and nuances present in the data (the artist's work).

AI can also be used to generate complex paintings that even artists may not be able to produce themselves. This allows AI-generated art to explore new techniques, styles, and aesthetics that have not been previously discovered. The first AI-generated art piece sold at an auction house was created by a French company called Obvious. The team, consisting of Hugo Caselles-Dupré, Pierre Fautrel, and Gauthier Vernier, used a GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) algorithm to create "Portrait of Edmond de Belamy" in 2018. This was sold at Christie's for $432,500!

How AI-generated art is changing the art world

The intersection of AI and art: Exploring the future of AI-generated art exhibits
Portrait of Edmond de Belamy by Obvious

Art has always been an expression of human creativity, imagination, and emotion. However, with the use of artificial intelligence, we are seeing a new era of art that is changing the art world by challenging notions of creativity and ownership.

On the one hand, AI can be used by artists as a tool to explore and experiment with different styles that they couldn't before. Additionally, AI is enabling artists to push the limits of human imagination and perception, leading to new forms of art that are often thought-provoking.

On the other hand, AI is also allowing the artist to be sidestepped entirely – removing technique and human creativity from art, especially in the area of design.

And this brings up one of the fundamental questions that AI-generated art raises, which is, "Who is the owner of AI-generated art?" In the past, the ownership and originality of a piece of art were considered essential criteria for determining its value. But now, the line between human and machine creativity is being blurred. The fact that a machine is involved in the creative process raises essential questions about the role of the artist in the production process.

AI-generated art exhibits are also attracting a new audience to the art world. The combination of technology and art is intriguing to many people who may not have been interested in traditional art forms. This has the potential to expand the reach and accessibility of art, making it more inclusive and diverse. Moreover, AI-generated art exhibits featuring interactive and immersive elements can often be generated more quickly and cheaply than using a human artist, providing a unique experience for visitors that is not possible with traditional art exhibits.

The impact of AI-generated art should not be underestimated. It can transform the way humans interact, perceive, and view art, but it could also affect the future of art and artists. 

The potential benefits of AI-generated art exhibits

The intersection of AI and art: Exploring the future of AI-generated art exhibits
Artificial Imagination by Bitforms Gallery

There are potential benefits to showcasing AI-generated art in museums and galleries. One of the most significant advantages is the ability of a novel form of art to engage a new audience and make art more accessible. People interested in AI and technology but with little artistic ability may use this as an opportunity to explore art. It also allows curators to create artwork that is more relevant to contemporary audiences, who might not otherwise be interested in traditional forms of art. This could introduce a lot of people to the art world.

Another benefit of AI-generated art exhibits is their potential to democratize the art world. By providing opportunities for emerging artists who might not otherwise have access to traditional galleries and exhibition spaces, or even those with no traditional artistic ability and training, AI-generated art could help to level the playing field and provide a more diverse and inclusive art world. Additionally, by breaking down boundaries between various artistic communities, AI-generated art could promote more collaboration and cross-pollination.

Some exhibits that have showcased AI-generated art include Bitforms Gallery, which hosted "the first DALL-E-inspired art exhibition" called Artificial Imagination. The exhibition, which opened in October 2022, included pieces of art created with the help of OpenAI's Dall-E.

However, other AI models have also contributed to the artwork displayed in galleries and museums. In November 2022, New York's MoMA opened the exhibit Unsupervised by artist Refik Anadol. This showcased artworks created by an AI model that Anadol designed himself. According to MoMA, "Unsupervised is a meditation on technology, creativity, and modern art."

More recently, in March 2023, Amsterdam opened its first AI art gallery called Dead End AI Gallery. The gallery began by commissioning software to create fictional artists, such as Irisa Nova. The artificial artists then generated their own artworks. All the artworks displayed were created by these AI-generated artists. This is a unique selling point but also means no artists were employed in the process. It also means the gallery is likely to keep all of the money earned from sales of the artworks, which can range from €3,000 to €10,000.

There is a lot to look forward to in terms of the developments and new art that AI can potentially generate. However, many people also have ethical considerations over AI-generated art exhibits.

Ethical considerations surrounding AI-generated art exhibits

The intersection of AI and art: Exploring the future of AI-generated art exhibits
Who has ownership of AI-generated art?

Some of the main concerns surrounding AI-generated art include authorship, originality, and control. 

When a human being creates a piece of art, the intellectual property (IP) is theirs, and so they have ownership. But, with AI-generated art, there may be any number of engineers, computer scientists, and investors involved in making the AI algorithm possible. So, in that case, who is the owner of the art the algorithm creates? And who should hold the copyright to the work? This was first explored by IP law professor Pamela Samuelson, who argued that the rights should remain with the user of the algorithm/program. However, clarity regarding ownership is still lacking. In addition, the artists who created the images from which the programs were trained were not remunerated for their work.

Another concern is originality. While the individual pieces of art that an AI algorithm creates might be unique, the algorithm itself must first be trained on thousands and thousands of existing artworks – art created by real-life artists. Many artists have argued that this could be considered copyright infringement, especially if the art generated by the AI uses parts of already existing work. So, can AI-generated art ever be considered truly original?

In January 2023, three artists filed a lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt. They claimed that these companies used millions of pieces of artwork created by real artists and taken from the internet without their consent to train their AI algorithms. This raises questions about the legality and ethical implications of using other people's work to train AI algorithms and whether the resulting AI-generated art is an original and authentic piece of new art or just a mishmash of elements copied from the work and styles of human artists.

And this is only the beginning. The fine print in the sign-up contracts for many commercial AI generators states that the AI company owns the rights to license and transfer the rights of any artwork generated. This means that artists who use commercially-available AI generation software may not, in some cases, own the rights to their own work.

This technology can also be used to spread fake news and for other malicious purposes, such as creating deepfakes of famous celebrities, politicians, and even ordinary people. Since this sector is not yet properly regulated, almost anyone can use this technology to spread lies and fake news. As technology progresses, people will be able to make increasingly convincing forgeries that they may utilize in any way they see fit. Deepfakes have already been used to commit financial fraud, create fake videos of Barack Obama, celebrity and revenge porn, and many other unethical uses. 

Furthermore, there is also the concern that AI-generated art could be used to further perpetuate biases and reinforce societal stereotypes. This occurs if the data used to train the AI itself contains inherent biases or if the algorithms used to generate the art reproduce existing prejudices. Many studies have pointed out the issues with existing bias in AI systems, suggesting that it is important for people who develop the technology to come up with safeguards to avoid this problem.

Future of AI-generated art exhibits

All of that aside, the future of AI-generated art exhibits is filled with exciting possibilities. As AI technology continues to improve, it is becoming more and more capable of creating art that is on par with human artists. With this in mind, we can expect to see more AI-generated art showcased in exhibits, galleries, and museums for people to engage with. Although AI-generated art does not necessarily represent the future of art, it could be an exciting intersection between art and technology. Whether people will be as interested in the art generated by AI as they are in art created by humans is another thing.

Even though there are many positives about AI-generated art being showcased, we must also remember that it comes with ethical concerns. From ownership issues to creating deepfakes, it is the responsibility of the technology creators and artists to ensure that AI algorithms are used carefully to avoid harmful situations.