What is generative art?
Generative art can be traced back to modern avant-garde art movements of the 1920s and ’30s, from Dadaism to Surrealism, that engaged with chance, unpredictability and automatic processes. By the 1960s, scientists and engineers who had access to powerful computing facilities explored the power of coding to produce visual outputs.
Refik Anadol (b. 1985), Living Architecture: Casa Batlló, minted on 11 April 2022. Non-fungible token. Sold for $1,380,000 on 10 May 2022 at Christie's in New York. © Courtesy of Refik Anadol
What’s the difference between AI and generative art?
Many AI artists employ algorithms called Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs, which train on datasets of existing images to generate original visuals with realistic characteristics. The release of machine-learning models like OpenAI’s DALL-E, have brought AI-generated art to the masses, allowing anyone to collaborate with artificial intelligence to produce unique images.
Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy, 2018. Generative Adversarial Network print on canvas, published by Obvious, Paris. 27½ x 27½ in (700 x 700 mm). Sold for $432,500 on 25 October 2018 at Christie's in New York. © Courtesy of the artist, Obvious
In 2018, Christie’s became the first auction house to offer a work of art created by an algorithm. The AI-generated work, Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy, was created using GAN. Since then, Christie’s has expanded its offerings in the category; in 2022, the auction house launched Christie’s 3.0, an on-chain platform dedicated to exceptional digital art.
How does generative art relate to NFTs?
In 2018, Christie’s first-ever Art+Tech Summit took place in London. Each of the 300 attendees’ gift bags included a complimentary 1/1 NFT by the artist Robbie Barrat, who was commissioned by SuperRare to create 300 unique works. As many in the audience were new to NFTs, only 12 of the works from Barrat’s AI Generated Nude Portrait #7 were ever claimed, making the so-called ‘Lost Robbies’ extremely rare and collectible.
Who were the pioneers of code-based art?
The Hungarian computer programmer Vera Molnár was another important pioneer. In the 1960s she used a plotter to produce computer graphics at a research centre in Paris, and has continued to produce influential digital works to the present day. She was recently featured in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952-1982.
In 1969, the Abstract Expressionist action painter Manfred Mohr began using his drawings as a base to experiment with computer-generated art. He has become recognised as a leader in software-based art, with works held in the Centre Pompidou and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Another forebear was the conceptual artist Sol Lewitt, who pioneered instruction-based art. His conceptual ‘Wall Drawings’ — begun in 1968 — comprised sets of directives from the artist that were to be executed by someone else. These instructions provided the code to generate the drawing on the wall.
In 1973 the artist Harold Cohen created AARON, a computer program that could paint and draw, one of the first instances of AI art.
What was Net Art?
In 2001, Casey Reas and designer Ben Fry co-developed Processing, an open-source programming language for the visual arts that is used by many digital artists.
Joshua Davis (b. 1971), the V01D / 027-007, minted on 7 March 2023. Single-channel video and non-fungible token. 00:02:22 minutes (1440 x 2560 pixels). Estimate: $14,000-17,000. Offered in The Next Wave: The New York Edit on 12-19 April 2023 at Christie's online
An influential new media artist, Joshua Davis is perhaps best known for praystation.com, his website where he housed digital artworks and experiments. It was the first to offer open-source Flash files and in 2001 was awarded the Prix Ars Electronica. His work has been inducted into the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and collected by Beeple.
Which characteristics make a generative artwork more covetable or valuable?
Another defining feature of the digital art market is the close relationship between artist and audience — artists receive real-time feedback and interact directly with their fans. While more digital artists are becoming represented by galleries, most still play an active role in promoting and selling their work.
What is a plotter?
A plotter is a machine that can draw vector graphics. Vera Molnár and others used plotters to create some of the earliest generative artworks in the 1960s and ’70s. At that time, plotters could produce line drawings faster and at a higher level of quality than printers.
Tyler Hobbs (b. 1987), Fidenza #724, minted on 11 June 2021. Non-fungible token. JPEG: 2000 x 2400 pixels; print: 49¾ x 41⅞ in (126.5 x 106.4 cm). Sold for £365,400 on 28 February 2023 at Christie's in London. © Courtesy of Tyler Hobbs
More recently, the artist Tyler Hobbs employed a plotter in creating a physical painting to accompany his famed Fidenza digital generative works. Hobbs used a programmable robot to draw output #163 of the series. He then painted over the rendering in gouache with his own hand.
What is Art Blocks?
Some of the most sought-after projects on Art Blocks are Tyler Hobbs’ Fidenza and Dmitri Cherniak’s Eternal Pump.
What is post-photography?
Post-photography refers to a new genre of image-making that combines analogue photography methods with digital manipulation. The capability of artificial intelligence to uncannily mimic actual photography, blurring the line between real and fake, has opened up profound ethical questions as well as entirely new artistic possibilities.
Roope Rainisto (b. 1979), Swan Dive, minted on 11 March 2023. Non-fungible token. Offered in The Next Wave: The New York Edit on 12-19 April 2023 at Christie's online
How can I display digital works of generative art?
There are also increasingly attractive and sophisticated digital options, where a collector can connect their wallet to a platform and create an immersive gallery in the metaverse, with almost endless ways to customise and curate a bespoke space. Some of the most popular platforms include Spatial and OnCyber. The 6529 Museum of Art has one of the largest and most valuable NFT collections in the world, with a particular focus on generative art — open 24/7 for virtual browsing.
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