Bengaluru teenager’s AI art sale ignites debate

Metrolife spoke to city-based artists to get their take on using artificial intelligence to create art, and its implications on the future of art.
Last Updated : 17 May 2024, 01:15 IST
Last Updated : 17 May 2024, 01:15 IST

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A 19-year-old has drawn the ire of many for selling art that has been labelled ‘stolen’ and ‘lazy’. The teenager’s social media post, of his stall featuring AI-generated art on Church Street, went viral for all the wrong reasons. 

On Sunday, Ashok Reddy, a city-based designer, was ecstatic after selling over 100 of his digital prints. He later shared pictures of the artworks and his stall on X.

Metrolife spoke to city-based artists to get their take on using artificial intelligence to create art, and its implications on the future of art. 

AI, a useful tool

Vidya K V, a watercolour artist, believes AI art is a reflection of contemporary society. “It is a modern form of expression. If AI art speaks to the general public, so be it. It is unfair to take on this higher-than-thou attitude, and continue to be purists when a lot of the artworks made by hand aren’t even 100% original,” she says. She has been experimenting with AI softwares such as DALL-E, Midjourney and DeepAI for the past year, and plans to incorporate them into her art.

“Initially, I too was averse to the concept of AI. I believed it would make my art less valuable. That’s the perception we get from social media. But as I read more about these softwares, and put them to use, I began to look at them as tools that can help improve my work. I believe AI is helping artists navigate the digital world, and is bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds,” she shares.

A faculty member at a city-based design school, Rohini Sen, is also of the opinion that AI is an important tool for both artists and teachers. “We need to embrace it as it is going to be big in the near future. Rather than replacing creativity, it can be used as a tool to enhance creativity. If you think of only one kind of art as ‘original’, it is like closing the door on various other possibilities,” she tells Metrolife.

She also highlights the existence of ‘copy works’ in the art world. “For Ravi Varma paintings, there are quite a few copy artists who charge a high price. When one can indulge in this, why not AI? Why shun one or the other?”
she asks.

Creativity and ownership

Rohini discourages the use of the term ‘AI-generated art’. “Artists use these softwares to ideate, and then produce art, which they later personalise. I don’t think it’s right to call it AI-generated art,” she says.

A large part of the debate surrounding the legitimacy of AI art lies in the question of ownership, says Santanu Chakraborty, art historian and photographer.

“These algorithms are trained using a whole lot of artworks by multiple artists. Are the owners of these softwares and algorithms willing to share credit and revenue with the original artists? As of now there is no mechanism for this. Most artists believe this is unfair,”
he shares.

The discourse surrounding ‘originality’ of art is an age-old matter, and it is unlikely artists will come to an agreement on this, he believes.

“When you go back to the beginning of mechanised reproduction, the large-scale reproduction was of a handmade product. An artist’s hands still played a big role. But this is the first time the role of the hand has been relegated even further into the background. That is a part of the discomfort that many artists feel and I feel it too,” he adds.


After Ashok Reddy posted on X about the success of his first-ever art stall on Church Street, he was met with severe criticism. ‘Please support real artists, instead of buying stolen art’, ‘Selling framed AI art… how pathetic’, and ‘AI art is stolen art, it is not yours to sell’, were some of the responses Ashok received.

However, the 19-year-old is not deterred by the criticism. “This criticism is not coming from actual artists. These are just random online folk. In fact, I have received immense support from the actual creative minds online,” he tells Metrolife.

He managed to sell 70 per cent of the 150 framed and unframed prints he put on display at his stall. “I use Midjourney to ideate and work on my designs. It is not created how people imagine it is — by simply giving a prompt and getting the final design. A lot of work goes into AI art. Once I’m happy with what the software has provided me, I use the help of Photoshop and other tools to customise it,” he shares.

Ashok’s designs are themed around ‘futurism’ and ‘Indian aesthetics’. They are priced between Rs 390 and Rs 650 for framed prints, and between Rs 220 and Rs 270 for unframed prints.

He plans to return to Church Street on the weekends with more prints.

Published 17 May 2024, 01:15 IST

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