Various artistic legends have been immortalised using artificial intelligence in recent years, from Amy Winehouse to Tupac, and now Salvador Dalí. On Wednesday (January 23), the 30th anniversary of Dalí’s death, the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, announced it will open Dalí Lives in April. The exhibition will invite visitors to engage with digital renderings of the famous Surrealist artist.
Using machine learning and archival materials, the charismatic and eccentric master of Surrealism will be brought back to life – on screen at least. A creative ad agency based in San Francisco was brought on to work on the project. Together, Goodby Silverstein & Partners and the Dalí Museum compiled footage, photographs, interviews featuring the late artist. This material along with new footage of a lookalike actor impersonating Dalí’s movements is being used to train an AI algorithm to learn the artist’s facial expressions and characteristics.
While most of the words and phrases used by the AI are lifted from actual quotes the artist spoke during his lifetime, the recreations will also comment on current events, such as referencing local sports teams. Watch the trailer below to see Dalí musing on the subject of death and his own immortality.
Dr Hank Hine, the executive director of the Dalí Museum, says the project was inspired by the artist’s sense of “his own eternal significance.” Hine told artnet News “I think that the seeds of this project were sown by the artist himself.” He mused, “It’s almost like, if he had left instructions for us, this project would have been among them.”
The museum has collaborated with Goodby Silverstein & Partners previously on similarly innovative and groundbreaking exhibitions including “Gala Contemplating You” in 2014, for which the agency created a kiosk that turned visitors’ selfies into replicas of a 1976 painting of the artist’s wife. Again, in 2016, the two organisations developed “Dreams of Dalí,” a virtual reality experience allowing viewers to step inside one of Dalí’s paintings.
These productions are in keeping with trends towards a more experiential museum experience, with recent polls conducted by the museum demonstrating that 97 per cent of guests were hungry for “more digital interactive experiences.” Hines explained how they are trying to make the work more digestible for a wider audience. “People who go to art school are taught to have a silent inquiry of a painting, to visually probe it and ask it questions about why it is the way it is. But that’s an acquired skill, and without an entry to the works it’s much more difficult. Drawing from Dalí’s own interest in media and the potential of new technologies, we have a commitment to find ways for our visitors to find delight and special kind of entry into Dalí’s spirit.”
Last year, a California-based museum dedicated to his life and work, Dalí17, was sued by the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, which controls the artist’s intellectual property rights for his home country of Sapin. The foundation said the 500-piece museum – which houses etchings, writings, and artwork like the famous Mae West lip sofa – rejected the use of the artist’s image in their logo and use of his name on their collection, merch and website, seemingly used without authorisation. The Cali museum was asked to destroy its merchandise and promotional material bearing Dalí’s name and image, and to pay damages, as well as profits made and court fees.
Visual arts isn't the only industry utilising artificial intelligence. AI is also being used by scientists to identify suicidal thoughts in brains, to improve personal wellness, and even to write poetry.