How Did This All Start?
In 2018, the art world was shocked when a piece of AI-generated art, entitled “Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy,” was sold for $432,500 from Christie’s art auction house in New York. Reportedly, it sold for more than 40 times what Christie’s estimated.
That was the official start of AI art entering the public's consciousness. Since then, there has been an explosion in the technology that drives this AI art. Investment in this space has grown by over 425% since 2020 to an estimated $2.1 billion.
AI-generated portraits, landscapes, mash-ups, prompt texts, and so much more have proliferated across social media. Interestingly, everyone from Boomers to Generation Alpha is getting involved in this AI art scene.
As with any new and highly disruptive technology, the AI art world has not been without controversy. Since the initial releases of these AI art systems, many have claimed copyright infringement as the AI models for these companies were trained on billions of images scraped from the Internet with prior consent.
In January of 2023, three artists filed a copyright lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt, claiming that these companies have infringed upon millions of artists. Only time will tell how the legal environment views AI art and the firms behind it.
Major Players in AI Art
Multiple companies and startups have met this new consumer in the past 18 months. Midjourney, OpenAI’s DALLE-2, and Stable Diffusion are the largest and most notable firms. While these AI art solutions are all very new, the pace at which they are maturing is incredible. For example, Midjourney has released four versions of its AI algorithm in the past 12 months.
I, like many others, was immediately hooked after first trying Stable Diffusion. There is something powerful in generating art just by using words and phrases to describe what you want. It’s like the ultimate fast food ordering system - but for art. “Hey, Midjourney, I’d like to see a landscape with vibrant colors. Oh, and add some cute robots too.”
What to learn more about how to create your own AI art? Check out our Complete Midjourney Reference Guide.
What is the point of AI art?
It started as a research project to help computer scientists visualize patterns learned by a machine-learning neural network. It has since evolved and matured into a tool used by creatives and non-creatives alike. At the same time, it has been the source of some controversy. AI art can bring the joy of art creation to those with no training or physical or mental disabilities that preclude them from experiencing traditional art methods.
How do artists feel about AI art?
Among some artists, there is a general sense of excitement as they view AI art as a tool to allow them to enhance their creative process. Others are less excited as they see it as a system that will replace the need for artists or that it devalues their original work. I'm more in the "AI art is a tool" camp.
Can AI art be sold?
The ability to sell AI-generated art for a profit has already become an accepted practice. Firms like Midjourney have some limitations on what you can do with art created with their free subscription level. But all paid subscriptions all commercial use.