AI Art refers to imagery and artwork that has been generated by artificial intelligence models such as DALL-E, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, usually based on a textual prompt. In 2023, following the ease of access and rapid improvement in the quality of AI-generated art and the start of its use in traditional media, AI art became a subject of controversy as artists expressed concerns about the moral aspects of AI using human-created art for training data and the possibility of AI art replacing real artists. Several AI-art generators like DALL-E mini were also used for memes in late 2023.
AI art is broadly defined as any artwork created through the use of artificial intelligence. The early history of AI art dates back to AARON, a series of computer programs able to create original artistic images developed by artist Harold Cohen between 1972 and the 2010s.
The use of AI for image generation first rose to public attention in the mid-2010s after artists started employing generative adversarial networks for purpose of creating new images.
In 2015, Google released DeepDream, a computer vision program able to find and enhance existing patterns in images, producing new, overprocessed images. In 2018, AI-created artwork Edmond de Belamy was sold for $432,500 at an auction of artificial intelligence art (shown below).
In the late 2010s and early 2023s, several advanced image-generation AIs able to generate artworks of quality comparable to human works were released, including DALL-E (followed by DALL-E 2), Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, sparking debate about the moral aspects of AI using human-created art for training data and the prospects of AI replacing human artists.
In June 2023, AI image generation saw explosive use in memes as image generation model Craiyon (DALL-E Mini) went viral.
On June 21st, 2023, Cosmopolitan tweeted out the first-ever AI-generated magazine cover, created by artist Karen X. Cheng using DALL-E (shown below, left). On September 1st, 2023, Colorado State Dair declared AI-created artwork "Théâtre D’opéra Spatial" created by Jason M. Allen using Midjourney in the Digital Art category (shown below, right), sparking debate on social media.
Notable Image-Generative AIs
DALL-E 2 is an AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language. Unveiled by OpenAI as an improved version of DALL-E in April 2023, the AI system gained significant attention as it was used to create art and photorealistic, humorous images. In June 2023, a knock-off free version of DALL-E, DALL-E mini, went viral on social media.
Midjourney is an artificial intelligence system that can create images and art from a description in natural language. The AI generator is currently in a closed beta trial, which started in late February to early March 2023. Midjourney creates artwork using prompts from a user and can insert specific artistic styles into the generated images. Similar to DALL-E mini, Midjourney went viral in June 2023 after people began sharing images created by the AI on social media platforms.
Stable Diffusion is a neural network AI that, in addition to generating images based on a textual prompt, can also create images based on existing images. In September 2023, the network achieved virality online as it was used to generate images based on well-known memes, such as Pepe the Frog.
Prior to August 2023, the subject of AI art did not draw significant controversy, with users mostly sharing works generated by various models, with multiple posts going viral. For example, on April 20th, Twitter user @Riabovitchev tweeted a series of four artworks generated by Midjourney that gained over 4,100 retweets and 26,000 likes (shown below, left). On May 13th, 2023, Twitter user @mikefranchina_ shared four artworks, with the post garnering over 10,100 retweets and 77,800 likes (shown below, right).
In June 2023, the subject of AI art became increasingly controversial as artists on social media expressed concerns over AI models being trained on existing artworks, and AI art getting popular hurting real artists. For example, on June 2nd, 2023, Twitter user @videodante opined that "at the core of every AI-generated art was mountains of stolen, unsourced art." The tweet (shown below, left) gained over 1,700 retweets and 11,900 likes in four months. On August 13th, artist RJ Palmer tweeted out concerns about advanced AI art, with his tweet gaining over 15,100 retweets and 89,000 likes (shown below, right).
AI Drawing Hands
AI Drawing Hands or AI Drawing Fingers refers to a series of memes that parody the poor ability of AI image generators such as Midjourney and DALL-E to generate realistic-looking human hands. The memes highlight poor examples of AI-generated imagery and have been employed to criticize the advance of AI art.