The Rise of AI Art
Fri, December 3, 2021

The Rise of AI Art

The adoption of artificial intelligence in various industries is becoming more evident than ever / Photo by: Phonlamai Photo via Shutterstock


The adoption of artificial intelligence in various industries is becoming more evident than ever. Forbes, a global media company focusing on business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and lifestyle, reported that 45% of retailers have already implemented AI to improve multichannel customer engagement as a core part of their marketing mix. About 37% of retailers have also been investing in the technology to improve supply chain management, chain logistics, and forecasting. 

The main factor why marketing leaders are adopting AI is because they want to improve customer experience (82%), followed by the timing and delivery of content, offers, and contextually relevant experiences (67%), and improving performance metrics (57%). Thus, it’s not surprising that AI is slowly transforming the arts industry. While the arrival of AI in the arts has been widely praised, it’s also viewed with suspicion and insecurity.

Nonetheless, AI can potentially change the art industry by complementing the artist, improving productivity and output, and expediting creation. While AI hasn’t yet redefined the art industry, several points can be cited that show a definite entry of the technology in the arts. Currently, many artists are accepting offers of having AI make their products – music, poems, songs or artwork – even better.

For instance, large and intricate glasswork shaped like a nerve cell was exhibited in an exposition on design and innovation which was held in Toronto in 2017. Through AI, the artwork responded to different movements by changing its light patterns and sound output. However, the abilities of AI are not limited to making art pieces interactive – it can also make its own art.

The First AI-Generated Portrait

While artists have already been using computers to generate forms of digital art over the past five decades, AI has taken this process to a whole new level. Traditionally, artists would have to write the code specifying a set of rules to create the chosen aesthetics. Now, artists are utilizing algorithms that can learn aesthetics by analyzing thousands of images.

Last 2018, Christie’s New York, a British auction house, auctioned off the first AI-generated portrait titled “Portrait of Edmond de Belamy (2018).” It was sold for $432,500, which was a significant increase from the presale high estimate of $10,000. In the catalog description, the portrait was created through machine learning by Paris-based artists Hugo Caselles-Dupré, Pierre Fautrel, and Gauthier Vernier. The artists fed the aesthetics of past examples of portraiture into an algorithm to teach it the aesthetics of past examples of portraiture. 

According to, an art market website, Caselles-Dupré stated that the algorithm used to create the portrait is composed of two parts: the Generator and the Discriminator. “The Generator makes a new image based on the set, then the Discriminator tries to spot the difference between a human-made image and one created by the Generator. The aim is to fool the Discriminator into thinking that the new images are real-life portraits. Then we have a result,” he said. 

The artists clarified that the painting was not a product of a human mind. It was solely created by AI and an algorithm defined by an algebraic formula. Recently, two paintings went up for auction in New York, which attracted an even more growing interest in AI-created works. These AI art pieces, "Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon" and “Le Baron De Belamy,” are for pre-sale between $8,000 and $12,000 and between $20,000 and $30,000, respectively.

How AI Art is Made

But how does a computer “make” artwork? According to Verizon, an American telecommunications company, it uses generative adversarial networks (GANs) and other algorithms that allow creators to build a stream of images based on a concept or a base picture. For instance, Briana Brownell, a programmer and an artist, has been using colors and textures as the guidelines for her AI art. Other artists are reshaping artworks from the past with the new technology. 

These algorithms can create and produce images that can surprise even the artist presiding the process like a series of distorted faces. Daniel E. Berlyne, a psychologist who has studied the psychology of aesthetics for several decades, said that the generated portraits from the GAN are certainly novel, surprising, and eccentric – which tend to be the most powerful stimuli in works of art. However, several artists and industry professionals believe that AI can’t produce the same sort of creative ability as humans.

They believe that making art is all about “simulating artistic techniques means also simulating human thinking and reasoning, especially creative thinking,” which is impossible to do using algorithms or information processing systems. However, many experts state that using AI to create work is more about building and using it to co-create and expand beyond their creative limits. 

Mario Klingemann, one of the pioneers of leveraging AI in art, explained that "a machine enables you to forcefully provoke that. Because it’s much easier to glitch, or bring off course, than a human brain. In the process of doing that often, some interesting things happen which are unexpected.”

As of now, artists have nothing to worry about in terms of being replaced by algorithms in the arts. Clearly, AI still needs to improve. Much of the publicity and drum-beating in AI art nowadays is simply hype. However, its role in complementing the artist and its use in creating amazing art must not be undervalued. 

As of now, artists have nothing to worry about in terms of being replaced by algorithms in the arts. Clearly, AI still needs to improve / Photo by: maxuser via Shutterstock