ART AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF CONTEMPORARY CREATION?

In August 2018 for the first time (and for a price never thought) Christie's auctioned a work made by artificial intelligence. Since then, the news around this technological side of art has only increased and the headlines conquer the covers of specialised media in the sector.

Pierre Fautrel, from the collective Obvious, “Edmond de Bellamy”, portrait made by AI, 2018 (image from Christie's)

The main difficulty that arises in this regard, and for which many detractors of the application of technological advances to the art world maintain their criticism, is the questioning of true creativity as an exclusively human skill. While innovations and the use of technology in other sectors are welcome, to enlarge the possibilities of expansion and research, the same does not apply to the art world. Admitting that a work made by artificial intelligence can compete in the market with other pieces made by artists puts into question the very concept of art and its intellectual and aesthetic appreciation as a genuinely human skill.

Mario Klingemann, "Memories of Passersby I", installation of the artwork sold at Sotheby's (image from La Vanguardia)

However, we must approach this question with the curiosity of an intrepid researcher, willing to break moulds. Thus, the creativity gets rid off that kind of mysticism that surrounds it and is analysed as a quality that can be translated into predictive algorithms and simulation patterns with an eminently scientific approach. In this context, we begin to speak of "computational creativity" to refer to the study of software behaviour whose performance and results can be considered creative. The possibilities are almost endless, and in recent times, the development of computer creativity software has grown exponentially.

But what is creativity? Can one determine when something is creative and when not? Back in the 50s, the Turing method developed to analyse the value of the objects produced by its software was extended. According to this method, if in a set of objects, some of which were made by a computer and others by a person, people could not distinguish one object from another, then the software worked correctly. This parameter, however, cannot be applied in the same way to creativity, because people do not value here the result obtained but the value of the work based on whether it has been created genuinely by a person or by a computer.

Jake Elwes, "CUSP", frame, 2019 (image from www.zabludowiczcollection.com)

Also keep in mind that even when we talk about computer creativity, we cannot ignore the part of human intervention in software programming. The research and applied knowledge that lead to writing that code is the result of a very personal intellectual work that also involves an in-depth analysis of the phases of the process itself. And this is where one of the main difficulties lies, because how and when does a creative idea arise? For now, it has become clear that these programs work with an initial phase of learning based on the detection of patterns, as is common in music or painting. Then, once the patterns are learned, they are applied to newly created work. But the mystery remains the same: what happens when there are no such patterns? How do ideas and creative thoughts arise in our mind? Difficult solution.

But it seems clear that artificial intelligence has come to stay and that we will have to deal with the multitude of matters that stem from this new reality: who is now the author of the work? How are intellectual property rights transmitted, if any? And many other issues.

ADA - Art Law Association and the Telefónica Foundation have organised an event on "Art and Artificial Intelligence", with the help of expert speakers, to open the debate around the challenges that new technologies pose in the art market of the 21st century. Thursday, June 5th at 7:00 p.m.

 

Buying the first work of art always instils respect. A difficult feeling to define that mixes vertigo with adrenaline. But over uncertainty and caution, a pleasurable sense of connection, understanding, and desire prevails. That work that, once seen, stays in the mind, reappears in the memory several times a day and seems to tell you that it is willing to be part of your home, is the perfect candidate to make the decision.

In the first steps, many collectors do point out that one does not start from an established plan, but rather that one acquires pieces based on taste and the connection one feels with them until, after time, they realise that the volume of works that accumulates can be labelled as a "collection". For example, this is how Alicia Aza explains it:

“I was not aware that I was collecting until many years later when a third party named me as a collector and talked about my collection. In 2005, I became aware of what collecting means and decided to articulate a collection with an identity of criteria and formats”.

Marcos Martín Blanco, co-founder, with his wife Elena Rueda, of the MER Collection, shares this same opinion:

“Collecting has been a passion, driven by a visceral state that encourages you to do so. The collection, in terms of acquisitions, has not been particularly complicated because, let's face it: it is easy to buy because they are all beautiful things and you have some clear idea of where you want to go, but at first those preferences were not so clear. It is with the time that a criterion is being formed”.

It is not always this way, of course, but for the buyer who starts out on this path, the personal connection that entails the first piece is essential. There it is the germ of a lasting relationship that is not limited to a simple aesthetic question but is an open window to knowledge, to exploration, to a world that is often unknown to us and awakens our fascination. The seed of that connection is purely sentimental, and it is precisely this impulse that determines the first acquisitions. The first piece is never forgotten.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Ana Maqueda

Exceeding the usual recommendations made by advisers and agents, rare is the occasion when the art lover decides to buy by pure investment. These paths usually open later, when the volume of pieces is large enough. In addition, there are those who are a bit against this classic concept of the traditional collector, approached from an eccentric, elitist and little accessible vision. On the contrary, art buyers are, above all, art lovers, sentient beings and permeable to creative stimulus who, at a given moment, decide to deepen the relationship they already have with art to take a piece home.

It is not that hard to overcome that small psychological barrier that turns the visitor into a buyer if one approaches the matter from a more personal and intimate perspective than from social consideration. Small-format works, graphic work or serial photography are of great help for this, whose price range, generally more affordable, allows a closer comparison to the daily basis expenses. In this way, the purchase of art falls within the range of feasible activities and becomes something close and possible.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Marc Cisneros

At that moment, a different relationship with art begins, based on pure experience and coexistence with the acquired piece. Perhaps it can be seen as an act of daring, but on many occasions, it is more a matter of necessity and transformation. Collectors also agree that the acquisition of an artwork is an exercise on personal analysis and opening up to a new field of knowledge that was previously alien to us. Alicia Aza explains that the reason she acquired her first piece of video art, by Sergio Prego, is because she did not understand it and because she saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to self-improve. This open window to knowledge creates new connections and bonds with creators, as one of the most fascinating parts of the process. Candela Álvarez Soldevilla explains that

"I think the most interesting thing in the art world is talking to artists. They are people with a special sensitivity to listen and understand.”

And Alicia Aza also says:

"I can share the satisfaction of being able to count on many artists in my circle of close friends today, and that is a long way to go."

Thus, with works that seem acceptable within the horizon of expenses that each one considers affordable, it is easy to find a piece that catches us. Since then, our home also evolves into a space in which art has a permanent place and presence, and there is no doubt that this transforms us inside.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Henar Herguera

Jaime Sordo, owner of Los Bragales collection and founder of the 9915 Contemporary Art Collectors Association, has always defined his relationship with art as a true passion and a vital necessity. For buyers who start on this path, he has the following recommendation:

“It is an essential condition that they feel the need to live with their passion to enjoy the works. Another very important aspect is that before making decisions for purchases, they are informed, so it is necessary to read specialised newspapers and books, visit exhibitions and museums and a lot of contact with galleries, which is an important and very specific source of information of the artists they represent. Finally, the presence in national and international art fairs. All this generates information and training.”

Indeed, fairs have become a good place for discovery because they condense a wide offer and allow diverse and global contact in a concentrated way. For this reason, many new generation buyers start in the context of an event such as Art Madrid, whose closeness and quality constitute a unique opportunity to meet, soak up and feed the passion for art.

(*) quotes taken from various interviews published in public media between 2013 and 2019.