This AI art exhibition is bound to create controversy

Art from the AI art exhibition The Art of Trending
(Image credit: Woods Art Institute (WAI))

There was uproar a few weeks ago when an AI-generated image won a fine art competition, apparently without the judges knowing. But now the AI image generator DALL-E 2 has been given a whole exhibition, but there's a twist that makes this very much an exhibition for our times. The artworks are generated by taking trending hashtags from Twitter.

DALL-E 2 is a text-based art generator that turns written prompts into images. And the organisers of The Art of Trending are using Twitter hashtags to inspire the prompts. The result has been dubbed "the most contemporary art exhibition" since every day it incorporates new pieces inspired by the day's events, from the #ItalianElections and #BerlinMarathon to #RussianProtests (not clear on how the tech works? See our piece on how to use DALL-E 2).

Billed as an art exhibition "curated by everyone and executed by AI", the Hamburg-based Woods Art Institute's experimental exhibition The Art of Trending creates real-time art pieces based on Twitter's Trending Topics. The institute says it aims to create "a stimulus for discussion about the limits of art and whether art is still a uniquely human capacity" and "explore the boundaries of what is art and what makes an artist an artist."

"From prehistoric art to Picasso's Guernica to Banksy’s Flower Thrower, art has always reflected, in its unique way, the moment in which it was conceived. Today, thanks to social networks, we have real-time access to global conversations, trends, and news," it says.

The resulting artworks, which are shared on social channels and on billboards in Germany, prove to be an interesting way of illustrating the news, covering topics as up-to-date as rising energy prices, NASA's Dart Mission and the GTA 6 leak. Here are a few examples we've seen so far.

The DART Mission

This week's NASA mission gets an entry in the exhibition with this painterly scene. We're not sure Wood Institute is being entirely open about exactly how its pieces are being made, though. It gives the impression that it's feeding Twitter hashtags into DALL-E 2 as text prompts, but we don't think DALL-E 2 would turn #DARTMission into this. It seems the curators must be composing much more descriptive prompts inspired by the trending story.

GTA 6 leak

The GTA 6 leak is believed to be the biggest security breach in gaming history. The story's been immortalised in this piece in the Art of Trending exhibition.

Russian protests

Russia's announcement of a military mobilisation this week led to protests in several cities. We reckon that DALL-E 2 must have been given a little more prodding than a hashtag to generate this piece with a definite Soviet feel.


DALL-E 2 captures the spirit of the movement supporting the release of Disney's forthcoming live-action remake of the Little Mermaid with a group of black mermaids celebrating.

Queen Elizabeth II's funeral

Again, it seems highly unlikely that DALL-E 2 would generate an image of a Queen's Guard bowing his head from the prompt "Queen Elizabeth" since it has no awareness of current affairs and isn't able to understand such symbolism. It seems the curators must have given the AI art generator much more specific instructions to create this poignant piece.

I'm not convinced that the pieces in the Art of Trending are as good as a lot of newspaper and magazine illustrators' and cartoonists' daily reactions to trending topics, but the exhibition will surely add to the debate and controversy around AI art generators. Artists were up in arms when an AI-generated image won a fine art competition, and Getty has banned AI-generated content from its stock image library.

If you want to try out DALL-E 2 for yourself, you're in luck. OpenAI has just got rid of its waiting list, opening DALL-E 2 access to everyone (although it seems to be unavailable in some countries). To learn more about the latest developments in AI art generators, read up on DALL-E 2 outpainting and check out these comparisons of the best AI art generators. We also have a roundup of the weirdest AI art.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.