Who actually owns art, antiquity, cultural property, knowledge? Who decides which artists and makers are “masters” and what constitutes the “canon?” Is any artwork truly original, and do the concepts of “art” and “artist” even exist in every culture?
Gen Art Studio @ The Met is project that both asks and challenges these questions through the lens of The Met’s public art collection. Born out of a collaboration between The Met, MIT and Microsoft, Gen Art is an AI (artificial intelligence) platform through which every visitor to The Met can not only access and learn about the historical cultures represented by objects in The Met’s holdings but also participate in a continuous, communally generated production of culture, of future heritage. The idea is for AI to collaborate with the human visitor to select existing works in The Met’s collection to create new works, which in turn will be available to the next visitor to use in yet another iteration of the creative process. This “new art” will constitute a parallel collection at The Met, one that takes its inspiration from The Met’s historic collections but is formed by a global community of Met visitors in tandem with public knowledge and artificial intelligence.
Ultimately, the newly generated artworks form an “art tree” composed of and by millennia of past, present, and future works and makers – existing in a space of shared, collective cultural production rather than one of individual authorship and ownership.