With recent advances in artificial intelligence, computers have the ability to create highly detailed images and artwork with nothing more than a few words entered into a text prompt. Is this concept fascinating? Absolutely! But is ai generated artwork actually art? That is a loaded question and the answer will vary drastically depending on who you ask. Follow me down the rabbit hole into the world of ai and artwork.
What is Art?
We must first explore what art is in order to gain a better understanding of the subject. The Merriam Webster definitions of art are as follows. (1.) The conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects (2.) Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation (3.) An occupation requiring knowledge or skill. Furthermore, Google’s definition of art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. The common theme between these definitions is human skill. I would argue that emotion is required for any true work of art as well.
What is ai art?
In the near future, anyone with access to a computer and internet will be able to create original “artwork” in a matter of seconds. In fact it is already happening. All of the artwork in this article was generated by ai. The computer user simply types a string of words into an algorithm and the computer takes over the rest. That’s it! Instant artwork, no skill required. This technology has made its way to the masses this year (2022) and will only get better with time. Ai learning is already creating lifelike photos of people who do not exist. Ai generated artwork will be unique and potentially beautiful. It may even resemble past and present paintings or photography styles. It will even be hard to tell apart from human created art in some cases.
Ai artwork is lacking one important ingredient though. Skill… By definition, art requires a skill to create it. Simply typing a few words into a text box and hitting refresh a few times is a far cry from the years of trial and error and experimentation that real artists put into their craft.
Does ai artwork have value?
Now for the real question. Does ai artwork have vale? If you are the owner of the software company that generates it, it certainly does. Ai artwork generating software companies are already selling their image generation services. These firms can sell their services to a wide range of industries including marketing firms and interior designers. Marketing firms will be able to reduce their cost be simply generating their ads via a simple text box. Interior designers may choose to generate their own artwork instead of purchasing real art from an artist or gallery.
Does ai generated artwork have any real value in the art community?
There will be a few visual artists who find interesting ways to harness the power of ai and incorporate it into mixed media presentations and performances, but it is hard to believe that it will have any real world value when it comes to tactile works of art. Ai art generating technology is relatively new and it’s hard to predict where the technology will lead, but at the end of the day it is simply technology.
The reason traditional artwork has value is because an artist’s talent, vision, time and skillset was used to create a work of art that is original and unique. The artwork is scarce so it holds inherent value. In the world of ai, everyone is an artist, so the ai generated artwork becomes abundant and is no longer scarce. The ai artwork may be beautiful in many cases but its sheer abundance and lack of skill used to create it, render the art void of meaning and value. Ai artwork is comparable to poster artwork. Yes, some people will hang it on their walls because it is cheap, but few genuine art collectors will be fooled into substituting real works of art for ai.
Does ai generated artwork devalue traditional works of art?
Try as they might, the machines will never replace the roll of human artists. While there will always be a place for low-value art in gift shops and on the pages of cheap online retail stores, there will always be a demand for quality human created works of art. As society finds itself slipping deeper into a world of ai and automation, the value of human contact and creations will only increase. In the future, there will be an intense desire to unplug and embrace the human element of life. This will include buying art from authentic artists who use paint brushes, clay and cameras instead of keyboards to create art. The best way for artists and the art community at large to resist the ai movement is to denounce it and ban it from all traditional art outlets.
The Ai Art Debate
Ai generated art is already causing a ruckus amongst artists. An ai created piece of art won a blue ribbon at the Colorado State Fair in 2022. The artwork technically did not break any rules but the question remains; Should there be rules in place to protect actual artists from competing against computers? Some stock photography websites such as Getty Images have already banned ai generated content from their servers. Other photography websites such as Purple Port have banned ai images to protect artists and the integrity of their work.
Ai Art plagiarizes the work of real artists.
Perhaps the biggest issue with ai generated artwork is that it is essentially plagiarizing the work of real artists. Ai works by sampling from a bank of images online. These images include photographs and works of art by real artists and photographers. The software then uses the sampled information to recreate a new image based on its sample. While the technology is impressive, the fact of the matter is that ai generated images steal from artists of the past and present without paying any sort of royalty. This type of theft should not be tolerated and should be regulated by copyright protections.
In a world of unregulated ai, what is to stop someone from stealing an artists style and creating identical artwork simply by typing in the artists name? The Salvador Dali rip off below was created in a matter of seconds and is a clear example of how dangerous ai could become to artists. While ai artwork is still in its infancy, the technology will only get better over time and we will live in a world where anyone can easily copy any artist’s style and call it their own. Sculptors might think they are safe from ai but there are already 3D scanners and printers on the market which will force them to compete with ai as well.
Ai artwork is relatively new and it’s hard to know exactly where it will end up. Overall, I think it’s another tool to cut out the human element in a world that is increasingly automated. In my opinion ai artwork should not be allowed anywhere near museums, art galleries or the broader art scene in general. For the time being, we are going to see an uptick in computer generated artwork on our screens (Instagram , facebook, ect.) and in the physical world around us. Ai is still exciting to people because its new but I believe that the novelty will wear off and there will always be a separation between real artwork created by an artists and ai artwork that was created from a few keywords. Some have labeled the ai revolution as “artmagedon”, but in the same way that film and vinyl is making a comeback, I believe that real art will survive. That doesn’t mean that artists should just stand by and let the ai battle play out without their participation though. Take a stand against ai artwork and speak out against this invasive technology.