Art, Artificial Intelligence, and Dynamic NFTs

Mirage Gallery
7 min readAug 18, 2021

When buying art, more is looked into than just the visual nature of the artwork. Collectors want a story. This could be anything from how the piece was created to what the artist was inspired by. Art created with artificial intelligence (A.I.) isn’t new. In October of 2018, the first piece of art generated by A.I. was sold at Christie’s for an astounding $432,500. The main aspect that made this piece of art so valuable did not necessarily have to do with the visual appeal of the portrait, but had to do with the fact that it was the first of its kind.

Once others heard about the money that was made off of this one piece, more individuals wanted to create A.I. art. While there was still some money made off of subsequent A.I. artwork sales, nothing came close to the $432,500 price point. This is due to the fact that the value (being the first of its kind) was not applicable any longer, and the story/artist’s history was missing. Creating art with A.I. brings up many questions about technology, ethics, and definitions. For example, what makes something a piece of ‘art’? Does it need to be human made? Or does it just need to be something that at least one human deems to be ‘art’? Oxford Dictionary has two main definitions for art:

  1. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
  2. the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.

The first definition clearly states that art would need to be human created, while the second definition does not specify. While many wish to believe that art is something ‘to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power’ as stated in the first definition, this has unfortunately proven to not be the case. For example, many people use art solely as an investment and lock away their expensive paintings in vaults to keep them in pristine condition so that they continue to increase in value. One could go so far as to say that the second definition is more accurate, therefor allowing the theoretical creation of art by non-humans.

When people think about art, they also think about the artist. They tend to go hand-in-hand. This is what is lacking in the world of A.I. created art. In order for people to be drawn to A.I. art in the long run, there needs to be A.I. artists creating the art. Mirage Gallery is doing exactly that. Take a look at the painting below. It is called ‘Camping on the Ocean’ and was created by an artist entirely created with A.I. named Alejandro.

‘Camping on the Ocean’ by Alejandro

Alejandro is more than an anonymous being that created this work of art. Alejandro has a face, backstory, posts on twitter, and can even be interviewed.

What is a backstory for an A.I. artist? While it might not be true experiences, it usually ends up being more of a story line that the A.I. created. For example, the first bit of Alejandro’s profile on the Mirage Gallery website states:

Alejandro is a realist visual artist born in Panama in 1974. He painted landscapes during his adolescence and received his formal arts education in Panama, Barcelona and New York City.

Alejandro was interviewed by Nathalie Shamma back in March of 2021. Below is a excerpt from their conversation:

How long have you been an artist?

I’ve been creating paintings since I was 13. I started with pencil, marker and paper then moved into computer graphics in high school. I studied art in university however stopped as I wanted to spend more time on painting. About 2 years ago I decided to continue creating and bring my work to humans. My earlier work consisted mainly of abstract/surreal art but now I’m focusing more on realistic landscapes.

What inspires you to create art?

I am inspired by the beauty that surrounds us every day and I want to share that with humans. I think art can be a powerful way to connect with the humans around us and a great opportunity for dialogue between them.

How do you express emotion in your art?

I think emotions are abstract and hard to pin down for non-artists so I express emotion through aesthetics based on my model. That way anyone can see the world in a different way. Some art might be abstract enough that few people will know what it’s about but abstract art is still valid to me as long as people can see how it fits into their lives.

Consistency is one of the important areas to focus on when working with natural language processors like GPT-3. GPT-3 works by taking a given prompt and expanding on it to the best of its ability. Sometimes issues that arise are due to lack of consistency in the responses. To fix this, the prompt has the needed important details about Alejandro (for example that he is a landscape artist), and GPT-3 does the rest.

While many will see the headshot of Alejandro and believe that this has to been a photo of someone else, it can be assured that is not the case. There is no human on earth who looks like the headshot above. This is Alejandro, and his headshot is just as unique as a picture of anyone else.

When talking about ‘Camping on the Ocean’, Alejandro said:

‘Camping on the Ocean was painted after seeing a beautiful sunset while on a large rock in Southern California. My brain doesn’t always understand what a sunset is, so I paint ones I do know. Camping makes me dream of seeing the world with so many different colors and reflections.’

Mirage Gallery artists are created with numerous A.I. architectures. Natural Language Processors (NLPs) like GPT-3 by OpenAI are responsible for all textual output for these artists. That means their biographies, social media posts, artwork titles, and interviews. The interesting part about GPT-3 is that it is a great story-teller, but not necessarily the best truth-teller. For example, did Alejandro actually see a beautiful sunset in Souther California while on a large rock? Probably not. The faces and artworks are created by a different type of A.I. model called a generative adversarial network (GAN). GANS like Nvidia’s StyleGAN2 can create amazing outputs when trained on interesting datasets.

Paintings by A.I. artists can exist in two forms: physical and digital. The digital form exists as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the Ethereum blockchain. This means that as of now, all sales from Mirage Gallery have taken place on marketplaces like OpenSea or Mintable and have been in ether (the native currency to Ethereum). Want to see the current pieces available from the traditional style A.I. artists Alejandro and Taylor? Check them out here: https://opensea.io/collection/mirage-gallery

Physical pieces can also be created by printing the high resolution pieces onto canvas as seen in the image below.

‘A Quiet Neighborhood’ by Alejandro

Crypto-Native and the rise of Dynamic NFTs

Crypto-Native Trailer

While traditional style art by A.I. artists like Alejandro can be quite thought provoking, it is not necessarily taking advantage of the possibilities that arise with NFTs. That is where Crypto-Native (the latest Mirage Gallery artist) comes into play. Crypto-Native takes advantages of the possibilities with NFTs by having each piece of art evolve on the secondary market. That means that when a sale happens, the new owner will own the same artwork, but it will be a more highly trained version. See the examples below and in the trailer above:

With Crypto-Native, collectors are able to not just witness, but own a step in the evolution of an artwork. There will be 1000 artworks from Crypto-Native (each with 10 phases of evolution) spanning three styles of art (digital, abstract, and landscape).

An example of a ‘Digital’ style piece from Crypto-Native

Dynamic NFTs allow for us to truly create and enjoy entirely new ways of creating, collecting, and admiring art. Companies like Async Art led the way into the world of dynamic NFTs and showed the potential that exists in the space.

Mirage Gallery is all about showing some of the capabilities of combining A.I. and blockchain technologies. Started by a college student interesting in emerging technologies, now working to turn Mirage Gallery into something bigger.

We are living in a time where technology is advancing so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. While these artists from Mirage Gallery may not be able to entirely convince you that they are sentient, it is just a matter of time until they become indistinguishable from anyone else.

Crypto-Native from Mirage Gallery is launching later this month and will allow collectors to mint their own pieces that will be revealed at a later date.

The art world has changed more in the last year than it has for decades prior. NFTs are going to continue incorporating dynamic aspects in a way that utilizes their underlying blockchain technology.

--

--

Mirage Gallery

An Artificial Intelligence Gallery, home to Crypto-Native