2022 will be remembered as the year that saw the rise of artificial intelligence art into the wider consciousness of the general public. Although the art form is still at its infancy, the accessibility, ease of use and increasingly stunning capabilities drive the novel art form’s popularity and evolution. AI art models such as DALL-E, Midjourney, StableDiffusion (and a myriad of smaller services) have seen an explosion of users, as curious creators and audiences flock to witness something that does not happen often in the world of art: a genuinely new method.
Ticking the boxes
The basic idea behind the user interface of text-to-image AI art models such as DALL-E and Midjourney is a very simple one. The user types in instructions for the AI in natural language (called a prompt) and the AI serves image variations of its interpretation. However, not all prompts are created equal, and the more elaborate and accurate the prompt, the better results the AI can serve. There is also a major element of co-operation and learning at play: formulating prompts that yield wanted results is experience-intensive, and there are already news of people making money off of prompt consultation.
Overall, AI art generation ticks all the right boxes for consumer success. It is simple enough for anyone to adopt, fast from idea to iteration and contains a clear learning curve which enables better results through experience – in short, professionalism.
The more frightful and conservative voices in the arts community have already been quick to declare AI art as the death of human creativity. However, strictly speaking AI art without human agency would not fall any longer into the realm of human creativity at all. Furthermore, the form we see the novel art method today is long ways from being meaningful or aesthetically relevant without human co-operation and direction. That is, of course, not to say that the status quo would not change in the future. New versions of the models are launched at a regular basis, and they seem to produce increasingly better results from version to the next.
New York Times made some waves in the art world earlier this year by reporting that a man from Colorado won an art fair with a Midjourney-generated piece. It is understandable how such news can be upsetting and worrisome for professional artists who compete in similar contests with traditional methods, or who rely their livelihood on their craft. This dynamic is exacerbated by the fact that the AI models scour the internet and use the work of established artists to fuel their prompt interpretations.
At least in the case of art fairs and contest it should be up to the organisers to clarify their rules and categories for applicants and audiences alike in the wake of recent developments. However, it is not the first time new art forms are a cause for alarm among the art community: many traditional painters were horrified by the invention of the film camera, and some photographers still adamantly shun any digital form of photography today.
We might be witnessing a period of transition, of adopting and adapting, but in the end the future of the art world is likely be more or less alike the old, than something entirely different.
AI art and New Arts Market
AI-generated imagery “is a major disruptive force, and there will be both democratic and oppressive aspects to it”, says British artist Matthew Stone.
The clue is in our name, and of course at New Arts Market we are excited to witness the birth of a new artistic method. As we have stated before in this editorial, we are also stout supporters of making art more accessible to wider audiences. Art should be for everyone, and developments in the field of AI art enable ordinary people without prior education or experience to have meaningful agency in an artistic process that has the power to yield tremendous results. Sharing the enjoyment of artistic creativity must be one of the principle benefits of this brave new world.
To celebrate the rise of AI art we have began curating a dedicated category for it on our website. But not to worry, as a counterweight to all this novelty we are also looking into bringing in the classics.
More on that later in the year.