BY Frieze News Desk in News | 26 JUL 19

‘AI Portraits’ Transforms Selfies into (Unsmiling) Renaissance Paintings

In further news: Nicky Morgan, who once suggested the arts ‘held back’ pupils, is appointed UK culture secretary

BY Frieze News Desk in News | 26 JUL 19

Courtesy: Ai Portraits

Researchers have created a website, AI Portraits, which trawls data from more than 45,000 15th-century artworks in order to transform your selfies into Renaissance paintings. The project is the work of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab – and has proven so viral that at the time of writing, the website had already crashed. It uses an AI technique known as a generative adversarial network (GAN): duelling neural networks that try to mimic examples, while also comparing to training samples. The result does not just ‘paint over’ your photos, but generates new features, responding to certain aspects with a specific style – whether in faux watercolour, oil or ink. One stumbling point that the app’s creators have pointed to is the rare instance of smiling individuals in 15th-century European portraiture, and therefore the inability of the AI to reproduce our smiles or laughter in its ‘paintings’. Another failure that users have also found is the app’s unsurprising inablity to properly ‘paint’ people of colour. The researchers want us to understand that AI is not objective – it is always susceptible to human bias: ‘Training our models on a data set with such strong bias leads us to reflect on the importance of AI fairness’. Don’t miss Mike Pepi writing on AI art: if artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)

Nicky Morgan has been appointed the UK’s culture secretary, in a cabinet reshuffle by the new prime minister Boris Johnson. Morgan has previously appeared to suggest that she thought the arts were not ‘useful’ and ‘held back’ pupils. While acting as education secretary in 2014, she said: ‘If you didn’t know what you wanted to do […] then the arts and the humanities were what you chose because they were useful, we were told, for all kinds of jobs. We now know that this couldn’t be further from the truth’. Morgan later rowed back on the comments, saying that ‘a young person’s education cannot be complete unless it includes the arts.’

Judy Chicago is getting her first ever retrospective next year – the exhibition will open in May 2020 at San Francisco’s de Young Museum. While Chicago’s The Dinner Party (1974-79) propelled her to stardom, the organizers of the show will be exploring five decades of the artist’s work, telling Artnews: ‘Her importance within the history of art has been undeniably established, but a lot of people aren’t familiar with the full extent of her practice.’

In gallery news: Almine Rech now represents Vaughn Spann; Marianne Boesky has added Gina Beavers to its roster; and Jay Gorney joins Marlborough Gallery as senior director.