AI Takes a Shot at Art Curation: An Experiment at Nasher Museum

JJohn September 10, 2023 3:21 AM

In an experimental endeavor, curators at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art turned to artificial intelligence, specifically the AI chatbot ChatGPT, to curate an art exhibition. The results were mixed, revealing both the promise and limitations of AI in the world of art curation.

AI steps into the world of art curation

When Marshall Price, the chief curator at Duke University's Nasher Museum, suggested using AI to organize their next exhibition, he probably didn't expect his staff to take him seriously. But they did, and as a result, they spent six months teaching ChatGPT, the AI chatbot, how to step into their shoes. It was a unique opportunity to assess the potential for artificial intelligence in the realm of art curation.

The AI-curated exhibition: Success or failure?

The resulting exhibit, “Act as if You Are a Curator”, marks one of the first times an AI has taken the reins of an art exhibition. ChatGPT made the selection of 21 artworks and even provided instructions for their placement in the gallery. However, the selections made by the AI were not without issues. There were questionable inclusions and some of the informational texts were off the mark.

The training process for ChatGPT involved interaction from the museum's curatorial assistant, Julianne Miao, who gave the AI a prompt to curate along the themes of utopia, dystopia, dreams, and the subconscious. The AI responded by creating the project “Dreams of Tomorrow: Utopian and Dystopian Visions”. One of the advantages of using AI was its ability to quickly search the entire collection and bring to light artworks that might have been overlooked by human curators.

AI in art curation: A blessing or a threat?

Despite some quirks in its selection process, ChatGPT's ability to identify overlooked pieces from a vast collection and its rapid work speed were seen as potential game-changers. However, this experiment also stoked fears among some curators. They worry that in the context of shrinking resources for the arts, AI-curated exhibitions could be accepted as 'good enough', potentially undermining the role of human curators.

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