In an increasingly digital world, the role of art and artists continues to evolve. Digital technology has played a major role in this transformation, from desktop publishing and image editing software to video editing and 3D modeling programs. Now we’re witnessing another watershed moment with the rise of AI and machine learning algorithms. These technologies are being applied across industries, creating new efficiencies and unlocking new possibilities for everything from self-driving cars to kitchen appliances. So where do this leave artist and the art industry? Do AI algorithms threaten or promote creativity? Does artificial intelligence have a place in art as either an observer or collaborator? As “the final frontier” for innovation, AI has already begun to make its mark on the fine arts world. Here’s a look at how artificial intelligence is shaping the future of art going forward.
AI and Machine Learning in the Art World
Artificial intelligence has been around for decades, but technology has made a recent resurgence in the fine arts world over the past few years. The creative industries are a natural fit for AI, where algorithms can be used to efficiently create content, streamline processes, and optimize creative outcomes. In the art world, AI is already being used to help artists in many different ways — from helping them shift their gaze from analog to digital tools, maximizing their creativity, and delivering new experiences for their audiences. Artists have long used technology as a way to augment their work, from Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches using silver nitrate to Andy Warhol’s use of the Polaroid camera. Now, we’re seeing AI applied to new and innovative ways to help artists. AI can be used to assist with everything from understanding the art market to generating new ideas for artists who may have hit a creative wall.
Artificial intelligence has been used to create art since the 1950s, when A. M. Turing, the father of computer science, used a machine to create a piece of abstract art. More recently, in 2016, a Berlin-based art collective called Zentral finished the world’s first AI-generated exhibition. The exhibition, “This is Not an Exhibition,” featured creations by an algorithm called “The Curator,” which was trained to recognize and recreate patterns, colors, and textures found in works in MoMA’s online collection. The algorithm was fed images and data from MoMA’s collection, which it then used to create original works of art. In a way, these pieces were AI-created works of art inspired by human works of art. The exhibition was proof of the concept that AI could be used to create original works of art.
Digital Authentication and Ownership
While the idea of AI-generated art has been around for decades, the technology has reached a point where it can produce authentic-looking artwork. AI-generated art is not only nearing the point where it can fool the human eye, but also the machine eye. The algorithms behind this work are able to sift through millions of possible combinations of brushstrokes, color palettes, and composition, eventually honing in on a single image that has been deemed authentic. By scanning an image and comparing it to a database of other images, AI can determine if it is a forgery. This same technology can be used to authenticate artwork, making forgery much harder.
AI Authentication in Fine Art
When it comes to AI in fine art, the challenge is to extract information about the work and its artist that is sufficiently detailed and useful for a computer. While image recognition has proven useful for authentication, AI has struggled with understanding other types of information in artworks, like who created the piece and when it was made. As a result, AI researchers have been developing new ways to understand the content of artworks, particularly the visual content, including the use of color, texture, and shape. AI researchers are also working to create systems that are open and accessible to other scientists and artists to build new knowledge and tools.
AI Fine Art Conservation
As the art industry continues to evolve, fine art museums and galleries are increasingly confronted with questions surrounding the preservation of the art they house. The challenge is that the majority of pieces in these collections are unique, making it difficult to track the best practices for preservation and repair. To address this, computer vision engineers have been working to develop AI systems capable of analyzing and providing insights into the state of these artworks, including their condition, composition, and authenticity. AI-based systems can be applied to art conservation at every stage, from pre-acquisition to in-gallery assessment and even post-restoration.
AI Fine Art Restoration and Retouching
AI has also made its way into fine art restoration and retouching, a process that allows museums to repair and restore pieces without damaging them. AI algorithms have been used to help restore paintings by artists including Caravaggio, Monet, and Van Gogh by analyzing the paintings’ compositions and applying digital paint. Fine art restoration and retouching have been a space where computer vision and AI have been applied to augment human creativity. In this context, AI algorithms are not creating new images, but helping artists to create more refined and accurate images.
Artificial intelligence has been around for decades, but technology has made a recent resurgence in the fine arts world over the past few years. The creative industries are a natural fit for AI, where algorithms can be used to efficiently create content, streamline processes, and optimize creative outcomes. In the art world, AI is already being used to help artists in many different ways — from helping them shift their gaze from analog to digital tools, maximizing their creativity, and delivering new experiences for their audiences. Artificial intelligence has been applied to new and innovative ways to help artists, such as AI-generated art, digital authentication and ownership, and restoration.