How Is Artificial Intelligence Changing Art History?

DALL-E image based on the prompt: “An Impressionist painting of a tomato climbing a ladder by the sea.”

People get up in arms whenever the hand of the artist is detached from the final artwork. “Are photographs real art?” they muttered in the 19th Century. “God I hate this Pollock guy,” cried haters witnessing a splattered canvas that the artist seemingly never touched. So it’s no wonder that AI image-generators have got art historians in a twist, as more artists make use of these tools to inform their practice. I love diving into what gets people’s blood boiling in the art world, and this summer AI crept its way onto the leaderboard of irritants. But why? And what might it teach us about art history and visual consumption?

DALL-E 2, a text-to-image AI generation program, went live to audiences this autumn. The initial version of the model — which takes its tongue-in-cheek name from Disney’s lovable 2008 robot WALL-E and the Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí — was released in January 2021 by the OpenAI research lab.

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