The Impact of AI on the Art World

AI continues blurring the line between reality and fiction. Robo-calls utilizing an artificial intelligence mimic of President Biden’s voice were made to New Hampshire voters in February of 2024, discouraging them from voting. Fake pornographic images of Taylor Swift created by AI spread across the internet in January of 2024. With “fake news,” “alternate facts” and flat out disinformation campaigns from politicians and corporations at an all time high – and the American public’s increasing inability to tell the difference, and often preference a lie over reality – artificial intelligence’s ability to aide in nefarious schemes is frightening. AI’s chilling reach has extended to art as well.

Again in January of 2024, millions of people on social media fell for a phony AI generated photo of the Eiffel Tower on fire.

January of 2024 also saw a list of 16,000 artists who had been used, without their consent, by AI company Midjourney to train its computers to copy their work, again, without the artists’ consent or permission. The copied artists were both famous – Warhol and van Gogh – and unknown, including children. When the service was used with prompts to create images specific to an artist’s subject matter, and told to create images “in the style of” specific artists on the list, its ability to replicate original art was shockingly good.

This has obviously harrowing implications for forgeries and copyright infringement as AI technology remains in its early stages and will become more adept in coming years. AI being able to recreate contemporary artists’ original artwork nearly perfectly and that artwork being passed off and sold as authentic by scam artists will surely happen, if it hasn’t already. Tech bros using AI to create original artwork inspired by other artists at the push of a button with no artistic talent themselves and then flooding the market with that work, taking sales away from actual artists, will also surely happen, if it hasn’t already.

AI clearly has dangerous implications when considering its impact on art… and beyond. Sadly, based on humanity’s track record, there’s no reason believing AI won’t be used to its worst purposes when it comes to art.

The question of authorship and the value of man-made art compared to machine-created art is a topic of ongoing debate. Let’s explore the various ways in which AI has influenced art and examine the position of traditional art practices in this changing landscape.

The Impact of AI on the Art World

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, “Northern Cardinal”, Digital painting, 2023
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, “Northern Cardinal”, Digital painting, 2023

#1 Anyone can become a creator

With the rapid advancement of technology, AI has gained the ability to generate art, blurring the line between man-made and machine-made creations. This shift not only allows anyone to easily create art with a few clicks, but it also has implications for the art market.

ChatGPT is capable of a lot, but there are more specialized solutions. If your ChatGPT is down or loaded, try ChatGPT VPN, it should help. Text-to-image art generators like Starryai revolutionize the creation of unique images with a simple text input. No artistic skills are required, as an algorithm swiftly generates original and high-quality pictures based on the provided prompt.

That can be good for users in any number of ways, and bad for artists in any number of ways. As with all technology, AI is not inherently good or bad, it’s in the application which makes a tool of technology good or bad.

Additionally, the website can produce an extensive range of images based on user input. This accessibility and on-demand availability of AI-driven “artistic” creation mark the immense impact AI has had, empowering anyone to be an “artist” anytime and anywhere.

I put “artistic” and “artist” in quotes because those terms to me imply actual artistic talent, skill as an artist, not just the ability to input into a computer prompts asking it to mimic artwork.

#2 AI can self-Improve

Generative art is a unique form of art created by software. It leverages machine learning algorithms, such as General Adversarial Networks (GAN), to generate previously unseen artwork. The process involves inputting sentences or keywords like “watching the sunset over the mountains” into an intelligent model, which then analyzes millions of art images to produce a one-of-a-kind representation of the desired concept.

Generative art tools vary in complexity, catering to beginners and advanced users alike. Notable examples include Processing, openFrameworks, Cinder, and Unity.

These are the tools used by bad actors to “create an image of the Eiffel Tower on fire,” or phony nude pictures of celebrities.

#3 Collaboration between AI and human

Collaborative initiatives between AI and human artists have yielded remarkable results.

One noteworthy study examined the differences between AI-generated Haiku poetry and that created by human poets, involving a total of 385 participants. Interestingly, the study discovered that the highest quality output was achieved through collaboration between AI and human poets. Surprisingly, when evaluated individually, the subjective quality remained consistent.

AI art has proven to be a valuable tool in various domains. For example, consider a writer in need of a captivating book cover and accompanying images for an upcoming publication. Hiring an artist or designer may not always be feasible. In such instances, AI art can serve as an incredibly useful resource. It also takes work away from actual artists.

#4 Generating high sales

FUTURA artwork
FUTURA artwork. Courtesy of the artist.

Generative art is transforming the art world, mirroring human artists’ physical exhibitions and sales in virtual marketplaces. These transactions primarily occur through non-fungible tokens (NFTs), with sales reaching staggering amounts.

Those sales have cooled dramatically since their post-pandemic peak.

#5 Difference between human- and AI-generated art

AI-generated artwork showcases its rapid evolution through intricate details, vibrant colors, diverse tones, captivating shapes, and other elements. The distinction between art produced by humans and AI is increasingly becoming blurred.

I argue that AI-generated art lacks the emotion, expression, and personal signature of human generated artwork. It lacks feeling. It lacks context. It is limited by the limited ingenuity of the data imputer. However, it cannot be denied that AI-generated art has made significant advancements and is now competing with human-created art.

Great art reveals the presence of imagination, creativity, pain, loss, joy, vision, spirituality, rage, originality and a hundred other human characteristics, characteristics machines can only replicate. AI is based on publicly available information, that is, its work is a combination of various aspects from public sources. It cannot innovate unique works.

Conclusion

Dali Museum Van Gogh Alive installation rendering Copyright: © 2020 Grande Experiences
“Van Gogh Alive” installation rendering Copyright: © 2020 Grande Experiences

AI will never replace human artists. Not writers, not painters, not musicians. Hopefully, it will become no more than an effective collaboration tool or aide in helping artists achieve better results when working together.

Humanity needs artists. We need artists to help us learn and feel, to expose humanity’s failings, and bring beauty and light into our lives. I suppose we’ll need AI at some point too, I just have a hard time believing its net impact will be more beneficial than detrimental. But that’s me, I’ve always valued people over machines.

The essence of AI art lies in the prompt, and its beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. AI has invaded the world of art for better or worse, we’ll find out which soon.

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