Digital images are becoming art. True digital art with real value. On January 18th 2020 a digital image was bought for over 12 thousand dollars. Robbie Barrat created the image in 2018 and named it AI Generated Nude Portrait #1. But how is it possible that digital images are becoming valuable art?
In order to understand this change in our perception of digital images, we first need to understand art. If I would draw something on paper, nobody would consider it art. Even if I would be drawing something that’s far above average in terms of quality and originality, some might still not consider it art. And if they do, it’s likely they don’t consider it to be valuable.
What is art?
Let us first agree that a definition of art is controversial by nature. However, art is always something that artists create with the intention to be at least a little bit aesthetic, surpassing everyday objects. These creations can often only be partially understood to those outside the current, ruling culture. Art can have a ceremonial or religious function, but it doesn’t need to. Arts are always changing, just like the rest of culture. New technology and artistic experiments create new genres, art forms, and styles. As Steven Davies wrote in The Artful Species (2012), art has existed in virtually every human culture that has ever existed. The first forms of art go back hundreds of thousands of years.
The way we look at art and how it is defined changes over time as well. On top of that there are plenty of philosophers who even stated that a definition of art is not possible. However, definitions of art attempt to keep two facts in mind. Firstly art has important historical or cultural features, and has trans-historical and pan-cultural characteristics that come together in something that’s simply the aesthetic appearance of art.
Determining the value of art
In 2019 the world’s market for art was worth 64 billion dollars. Last year a 1986 sculpture by Jeff Koons sold for 91.1 million dollars. At the same time there’s older art for artists that are no longer with us, selling for hundreds of millions of dollars. However, these big sales come from a small group of wealthy investors and only art pieces from a small group of…