The Mona Lisa’s size is smaller than three feet tall and about two feet wide, and it hangs in the biggest exhibition room at France’s Louvre Museum. However, in recent weeks, some vigilante AI artists have decided it should be bigger. They are using Adobe Photoshop’s “generative fill” beta tool, which allows users to fill in, augment, or expand an image using AI. The tool uses Adobe’s “Firefly” AI models, trained on its stock photography. Amateur and professional editors alike can use a text prompt to add clouds to a picture of a blue sky or widen a photo of a beach to include additional computer-rendered beach. The revised works have expanded classic album covers and film shots.
Generative AI is fundamentally about remixing rather than creating something entirely new. Most use cases for generative AI currently being sold to us fall short of revolutionizing the world. AI enthusiasts will tell you how ChatGPT can draft work emails or render PowerPoint presentations in seconds, but to what end? People are right to understand if we need more emails or a bigger Mona Lisa. The computational firepower is being directed at uses that seem more like corporate gimmicks than anything substantive.
However, András Szántó, a museum consultant and the author of The Future of the Museum, believes that AI art is a new medium with many possibilities. Expanding the frame isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Twitter interpretations miss a distinct point of view that human artists embed in their works all the time. The computer just tramples on the artist’s perspective. The AI can deliver renderings of nature, but without any creative intent, they lack tension.
Before Photoshop’s update, the Mona Lisa was in the news for an entirely different reason. An Italian historian named Silvano Vinceti claims to have found the ruins of the bridge featured in the painting’s background, perhaps solving a long-running mystery. People curious as to what lurks beyond the canvas can now make a pilgrimage to the hills outside the small Tuscan town of Laterina or ask a generative-AI tool to render its best guess.