How Bahrain Hosted the Most Important SUMMIT on AI and Art to date

By Jason Bailey, Founder, Artnome, Boston, USA
AI Vs Artistic Creation Panel during the Art + FinTech summit Bahrain 2019 © Fadi Farhat Photography
AI Innovation panel at the Art + FinTech summit Bahrain 2019 © Fadi Farhat Photography
In-Conversation with Maurizio Seracini on AI and Applied Science at the Art + FinTech summit Bahrain 2019 © Fadi Farhat Photography
Jason Bailey, Founder Artnome and Moderator at the Art + FinTech summit Bahrain 2019 © Fadi Farhat Photography


Artificial intelligence will be the most important innovation for the next several decades. Historically, artists have been among the first to experiment with new ideas and technologies like AI to help the rest of society to understand the coming changes and what they might mean. AI is no different. Artists like Mario Klingemann and Robbie Barrat are far ahead of the curve, producing exciting new works that leverage AI technology (specifically, generative adversarial networks [GANs]) but also provide a commentary on where this tech is taking us.

What is new is that the emerging art movement around AI art is not centralized around a single traditional art capital like Paris or New York, but instead is decentralized as a truly global movement. This means that countries and cities that are looking to establish themselves as part of the new cultural avant-garde need only be open to hosting and supporting these cutting-edge thinkers and artists.


For example, the first and most important international AI art group show to date, "Gradient Descent", was held in New Delhi, India last year at the Nature Morte gallery. There is nothing particularly strategic about New Delhi when it comes to AI art, yet visionary gallerist Aparajita Jain had the foresight to see the importance of this growing movement and to provide support to it in the form of an early show. This, of course, brought India a great deal of positive press as Jain and Nature Morte were ahead of the curve, long before AI art started selling at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Likewise, the country of Bahrain recently hosted one of the most important summits on AI art to date. Artem Holdings launched the 2nd Annual UNFOLD Art XChange under the theme 'Art + FinTech' that took place from the 7-9 March 2019 at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre. The Art + FinTech summit was integrated as part of the talks programme for the 4th edition of ArtBAB, Bahrain’s international art fair, under the patronage of Her Royal Highness, Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty, The King of Bahrain, President of the Supreme Council of Women in collaboration with Tamkeen. It brought together the top practitioners in AI art, as well as companies that are using AI to solve problems in the traditional art market.


The first panel, AI VS Artistic Creation: Can Artificial Intelligence Replace Human and Who Owns the Copyright focused on artists and artistic creation with AI and featured two of the most important artists working with AI today. German artist Mario Klingemann had just sold his work Memories of Passersby at Sotheby’s in London. Klingeman has long been at the forefront of exploring generative art, and his dark and challenging works are finally getting some of the recognition they deserve. In addition to selling his work at Sotheby’s, Klingemann’s work The Butcher’s Son won the Lumin Prize in 2018. American AI artist Robbie Barrat had just come off of a successful show in Paris collaborating with French painter Ronan Barrot. Barrat, a teen prodigy, made headlines last summer when it became clear that the French artist collective Obvious sold a work at Christie’s for $450k that was largely based on Barrat’s work and code. While we have not heard much from Obvious since then, Barrat continues to innovate at a rapid pace, regularly producing new and cutting-edge work.


Also participating on the artistic creation panel was the aforementioned Nature Morte Gallery director and co-owner, Aparajita Jain. Jain shared her thoughts on the new challenges and opportunities that AI presents to traditional art galleries and the art market. Rounding out the panel was Attorney Ed Klaris, CEO of KlarisIP & Klaris Law. Klaris delved into the many concerns and considerations around copyright and IP that are associated with this new medium.


The second panel, AI Innovations: The Use of AI for Attribution, Augmented Creativity and Forecasting Art Trends featured an equally impressive group of panelists. The panel kicked off with a demo of Cristobal Valenzuela’s new software, RunwayML. Runway ML puts the same tools used by artists like Mario Klingemann and Robbie Barrat into the hands of less technical artists and designers, almost like an AI version of Adobe Photoshop. Andrew Shum, CEO of Thread Genius, a company that was acquired by Sotheby’s in 2017 shared how he and his team came to Thread Genius by way of Spotify and applieda Spotify-like approach to surfacing artworks by identifying trends in taste. Zike Wu, Co-Founder ArtVenture shared how ArtVenture uses models that are already proven in other investment classes to help establish credibility in art as an asset class. And lastly, Robert Norton, CEO of Verisart and advisor to Artrendex, shared how machine learning can be used for everything from trend detection to attribution and authentication. Much of the conversation focused on the need to improve quantity and quality of data in order to feed data hungry algorithms that need much more data than we currentlyhave in order to improve accuracy.


Maurizio Seracini, Founder of Editech Art & Science Srl, a TED talks speaker whom have been seen as a pioneer in using the latest technology to make important art historical discoveries since the late 1970s, carefully pointed out during his in-conversation session around AI and Applied Science that these tools are really just toys. According to Seracini, a rigorous process for evaluating artworks to understand what we have is what is really needed. Seracini also brought much-needed perspective on how important it is to use these tools to preserve our common cultural heritage and to not just over-focus on the art market.


The AI panels and in-conversation were moderated by Jason Bailey, Founder of Artnome, the world's largest analytical database of known works across our most important artists.