Art in the age of AI

The Ledger / Spotlight

How is Artificial Intelligence Changing and Challenging the Art Market?

As artificial intelligence (AI) integrates itself into our lives, Founders Forum invited the artists to exhibit and auction off their works for charity.

By Lindsey Bourret


London, UK — June 13, 2019: Eight of the world’s leading artists working with AI tools and technologies are unveiling new works today at Founders Forum in London, where the world’s leading digital and technology entrepreneurs converge for the annual flagship event. Test

The exhibition, ‘Art in the Age of AI’, features works by Ahmed Elgammal, Alexander Reben, Casey Reas, David Young, Helena Sarin, Matt DesLauriers, Mario Klingemann and Sougwen Chung. Each work is the combination of human and machine intelligence and many use Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) both as generators and discriminators to create new images, though the final selection is a human one.

A small dog laying on a skateboard by Alexander Reben, 2018, oil painting on linen canvas, 25.6 x 25.6 in., unique
A small dog laying on a skateboard by Alexander Reben, 2018, oil painting on linen canvas, 25.6 x 25.6 in., unique
Neural Colour by Matt DesLauriers, 2019, archival inkjet print on paper, 48 x 48 in., unique work.
Neural Colour by Matt DesLauriers, 2019, archival inkjet print on paper, 48 x 48 in., unique work.

 

Curated by Robert Norton, CEO & Founder of Verisart exclusively for Founders Forum, each work carries a blockchain-based secure digital certificate of authenticity.

As artificial intelligence (AI) integrates itself into every aspect of our lives, Founders Forum, now in its 14th year, invited the artists to exhibit and auction off their works for their nominated charity. This hand-picked, invitation-only event billed as ‘where the future unfolds’ brings together the most innovative thinkers to collaborate and debate.

Rage of the Machine, a tragedy of tensors & Inferno Canto III by Helena Sarin, 2019, diptych print, archival ink on archival matte paper, 310 gsm, 14 x 14 in. (x2), edition of 3 + 2 APs.
Rage of the Machine, a tragedy of tensors & Inferno Canto III by Helena Sarin, 2019, diptych print, archival ink on archival matte paper, 310 gsm, 14 x 14 in. (x2), edition of 3 + 2 APs.

Since he founded Verisart in 2015, Norton formerly CEO & co-founder at Saatchi Art and Sedition Art, has sought to apply technology solutions to the evolving arts and collectibles market.

“We’re delighted to present the first art exhibition at Founders Forum and as AI integrates itself into every aspect of our lives, it felt only logical to invite these artists to present their extraordinary works. As boundaries between natural and artificial intelligence blur, these artists, through their non-dualistic collaboration with code and machines, expand our ways of seeing and aesthetic experience,” Norton said.

Imposture Series: Going to Standby by Mario Klingemann, courtesy of Onkaos, 2017, Papel Hahnemühle
Imposture Series: Going to Standby by Mario Klingemann, courtesy of Onkaos, 2017, Papel Hahnemühle

But is it really art?

The current AI exhibition at The Barbican Centre in London, Pierre Huyghe’s UUmwelt exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery, Ian Cheng’s computer-simulated ‘living environments’ at the Venice Biennale this year and recent ground-breaking sales of AI art at Christie’s and Sotheby’s have thrust AI into the art market and questioned how we think about and interact with art.

Just as the 1960s saw a new wave of artists explore TV, video and satellite signals as a new medium, these artists working with AI are at the forefront of extending our dialog between art and technology.

About his work titled Winter Woods (Learning Nature b57c.6688.4), David Young said, “The AI was taught using a handful of photographs I took in the woods of my upstate NY farm. The system, severely crippled by the standards of ‘normal AI,’ struggles to understand. Nothing that emerges is accurate, but the work isn’t asking for accuracy — it’s asking for the AI to build its own unique vision of the natural world.”

Winter Woods (Learning Nature b57c.6688.4) by David Young, 2018, archival inkjet print, 27 x 36 in., edition of 3 + 1 AP.
Winter Woods (Learning Nature b57c.6688.4) by David Young, 2018, archival inkjet print, 27 x 36 in., edition of 3 + 1 AP.

Mario Klingemann’s Imposture Series: Going to Standby focuses on the figurative. Klingemann said, “Each Imposture Series image is generated entirely by a machine, painted by a GAN (generative adversarial network). The network adds new information to low resolution content using a method known as transhancement: skin texture, hair, or other artefacts complete the image. The result is painterly and ethereal, a neural network’s vision of the human form.”

Artists working with AI stand on the frontlines against often hostile critics and a skeptical public. By occupying this position, they join a long history of artists pushing against the prevailing boundaries of their time.

Louis Leroy, journalist famous for coining the term ‘impressionism,’ panned Claude Monet’s Impression: soleil levant with the caustic comment, “A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished than this seascape.” Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain was received with anger by those who, like critic Calvin Tomkins, felt that the artist had “undermined several centuries of Western art” and Andy Warhol inspired entire treatises on the subject of mass production in art. It’s an ongoing debate and even some of the biggest stars in the contemporary art market, such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, find themselves routinely criticized for heavily relying on assistants to create their works.

Artefact 1 by Sougwen Chung, 2019, archival ink on Hahnemuhle German etching paper, 25 x 20 in., edition of 5 + 2 APs.
Artefact 1 by Sougwen Chung, 2019, archival ink on Hahnemuhle German etching paper, 25 x 20 in., edition of 5 + 2 APs.

The way artists approach their work are driven as much by new techniques and philosophies as advances in technology itself. Faced with the growing popularity of the camera as an artist’s tool, the French critic Charles Baudelaire said, “If photography is allowed to supplement art in some of its functions, it will soon supplant or corrupt it altogether, thanks to the stupidity of the multitude which is its natural ally.’’ The art world’s initial reception of video was similarly cold and this line of argument resurfaces with regards to digital art and the emerging world of AI art.

In a recent article for The Atlantic, Ian Bogost writes, “The 20th-century avant-garde turned anything whatsoever into art, an idea that overtook popular culture in the 21st. Today, computer-science and venture-backed start-ups are driving cultural production instead. And yet, of all the aesthetic forms, fine art might be the most compatible with technological disruption — both thrive on novelty, even if it burns hot and fast.”

Untitled film still 3.1 / 3.2 by Casey Reas, 2019, diptych of dye-sublimation image on aluminum, 16 x 16 in. (x2), unique work.
Untitled film still 3.1 / 3.2 by Casey Reas, 2019, diptych of dye-sublimation image on aluminum, 16 x 16 in. (x2), unique work.

What role does authenticity play in a rapidly changing art world?

In his essay titled “Authenticity in Art,” published in the Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Denis Dutton defines and categorizes authenticity. Nominal authenticity includes the “correct identification of the origins, authorship or provenance of an object.” He writes, “Establishing nominal authenticity serves purposes more important than maintaining the market value of an art object: it enables us to understand the practice and history of art as an intelligible history of the expression of values, beliefs, and ideas, both for artists and their audiences.”

Untitled #342 by Ahmed Elgammal, 2019, aluminum dibond, 48 x 48 in., edition of 25.
Untitled #342 by Ahmed Elgammal, 2019, aluminum dibond, 48 x 48 in., edition of 25.

Simply put, authenticity will always be important in art, regardless of the medium. Traditionally, nominal authenticity has been established by means of expert opinion, provenance research and scientific analysis of the artist’s materials. By applying blockchain technology to certify the works by these AI artists, the certificate, provenance and registry data are secured, unified and timestamped for verifiable consensus today and in the future.

 

Verisart provides artists with a blockchain-based certification and provenance record permanently linked to the artwork. Each record includes the artist’s signature, a statement of the artwork, an image hash and a blockchain timestamp. Owners can verify provenance data in real-time and each record contains unique cryptographic signatures that prevent them from being duplicated.

Verisart Certificates of Authenticity

Alexander Reben certificate for a small dog laying on a skateboard
Alexander Reben certificate for a small dog laying on a skateboard
Ahmed Elgammal certificate of authenticity for Untitled #342
Ahmed Elgammal certificate of authenticity for Untitled #342

To learn more about Verisart’s secure digital certificates of authenticity, please visit: www.verisart.com.

If you would like to bid on any of the works, please submit your bid via email to artauction@ff.co.

All proceeds will go to the following non-profit organizations:

The Brain Tumour Charity

The Electronic Frontier Foundation Charity

The New Inc. at the New Museum Charity

The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals Charity

The Cool Earth Charity

The Internet Archive Charity

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