AI art is here. It’s instantly recognizable. And instantly disturbing.

With characteristic ripples, a distinctive muddiness and portraits that prefer to blur or erase faces — perhaps AI’s commentary on humanity? — you can spot an AI piece immediately, after you’ve seen a few.

Faceless Portrait of a Merchant by the AICAN AI.

These AI programs are of the machine-learning sort.

That means you give them a set of works of art and tell the software to discern patterns and then either replicate those patterns in new work or use them as a jumping-off point to create new types of art.

Many people in the art world think AI will have the most impact as an appraiser. AI can do a better-than-human job figuring out if a piece is an original or a forgery. And it’s been surprisingly accurate at guessing the value of art.

Others think AI’s future is on the canvas. A gallery in Chelsea recently had an all-AI show, with pieces going for $5,000–10,000 on average. That’s cheap for Chelsea — and the show quickly sold out.

Meanwhile, another AI piece just sold at a Christie’s auction for $432,500.

What will the future hold? Who knows? These AI pieces could be a fad — fast to fade once attention moves on (or when everyone can download a free app to their phone that does the same thing).

Or AI could take over the art world, with these first examples quickly hitting priceless status.

Those who think the future is bright for AI art point to how many programs can look at art from various time periods and correctly deduce the historical order in which they were produced. And can then extrapolate from where art is today what it will become tomorrow.

In the rosiest reading, art made by AI could simply outpace humanity’s contributions from now to eternity.

At the same time, other versions of AI art programs — like those developed at Google — are told they can’t make anything that’s at all like art already out there. Some of the results have been very trippy… and surprising.

Could human artists get hemmed in, becoming more like artisanal furniture makers in a world dominated by Ikea?

Personally, I’m skeptical.

AI may be able to master the technical abilities required to produce great art — and even quickly surpass all humans.

But so much of art’s value is about the story behind a piece… the provenance… the interpretation of meaning… the seed of an idea and the mystery of its bloom.

And AI is still far away from infusing interpretative meaning into work. It will stumble onto it through imitation — but that will feel hollow next to the real thing.

That’s my bet, anyway, for the foreseeable future. Disagree with me? Good — that’s what makes this space so interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can share your opinions at feedback@unconventionalwealth.com. (You might even see your words in print.)

In the meantime, if you want to take a chance, feel free to buy a piece of AI art today. It’s the art world equivalent of a startup penny stock. You’re getting in on the ground floor. And if the value rises, you could see profits 100x your original investment — or more.

Or, as with most penny stocks, everything you put in could go up in smoke.

But if you want a safer bet, invest in a proven artist through our partners at Masterworks.

Gains may be slower than they’d be for a startup. But unlike with speculative purchases of new trends, gains are virtually guaranteed.

Unconventionally yours,

Ryan Cole

Ryan Cole
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth

Ryan Cole

Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.

Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...

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