From creative AI to open-source sculpture: how tech is changing art

People are already very familiar with the growing number of technologies that are simplifying access to art. Tablets and smartphones are becoming the standard devices for museums to offer interactive guides to visitors, and I’m sure you saw that in the last exhibition you visited. What you may not know is that Tate started experimenting in this direction around 2010, when its iOS app allowed visitors to interact with the artwork How It Is by the Polish artist Miroslaw Balka. In seven years, technology has made huge progress, allowing a company like Google today to digitise a portion of the human artistic output preserved across the museums of the whole world in The Google Art Project. This democratises the access to arts allowing anybody in the world, for free, to experience over 45,000 objects in their current location.

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Likewise, technology portals like Artsy are broadening access to art. These websites allow anybody to track a series of favourite artists, virtually collecting their masterpieces, and be informed about new paintings or sculptures or photographs from emerging artists that might match their taste based on their collections.

Access is not just about consuming art. It’s also about understanding art, and technology is helping in that area too. I just visited the David Hockney show at Tate Britain, and in the last room, two imposing artworks dominate the walls. Underneath them is a series of displays, running the animation of the whole artistic process that led to the artworks, from the initial white canvas to the final output on the walls.

What if access to art could be also about participating in art? My company, Red Hat, has been a pioneer of open source software. At the foundation of it there is the concept of open collaboration: thousands of engineers that democratically work together on a project to solve massively complex challenges, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, language or geographic location. This model based on open collaboration has proven so successful that today it’s used by the biggest companies in the world to develop open source software that supports the world economy, in every industry, from aviation to finance, from retail to entertainment. Tate is trying to do something similar with its Tate Exchange programme: fostering the collaboration between the artists and the audience so that the latter gets involved in the conversation, becomes part of the artistic process, and ultimately can also become part of the final artwork itself. That is an unprecedented effort to democratise access to art.

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