Vienna’s Tourism Board Is Using Cat-Themed A.I. Spin-Offs of Famous Artworks to Urge People to Go See the Real Thing

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It’s hard to believe that Vienna’s own tourism board is behind a new series of strange A.I.-generated spin-offs of some of Austria’s most iconic artworks starring the internet’s favorite animal, the cat.

Once they’ve got our attention with these viral-ready images, however, the city is offering a different proposition: visit Vienna and “see the art behind A.I. art.”

“With so much artificial intelligence invading lives—particularly with programs like DALL-E or Midjourney that allow anyone to create ‘works of art’—Vienna wants to remind visitors of who made that all possible in the first place,” explained the tourist board’s CEO, Norbert Kettner, in a press statement.

The tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign risks significant backlash, as has been the case for other cultural institutions venturing into A.I., like the San Francisco Ballet and the Mauritshuis in the Netherlands.

Vienna’s UnArtificial Art campaign. Photo: © Vienna Tourist Board, Michael Nagle.

Despite these good intentions, the campaign saw fit to address each modernist master on a first name basis, issuing a slightly offhand apology for mutating their work. “Sorry Egon, but your art made A.I. art possible,” reads one Schiele-style image of a decidedly despondent-looking feline. Another offers its heartfelt condolences to Gustav (Klimt) for ripping-off (1907–08).

The board is also releasing a video in which art historian Markus Hübl introduces us to Vienna’s world famous masterpieces by Schiele, Klimt, and Bruegel, before offering a comically far-fetched scholarly analysis of their A.I.-generated derivative.

If the campaign succeeds, it will encourage the fast-growing audience for A.I.-generated images to redirect their attention to the real thing, which can be found at Vienna’s celebrated cultural institutions: the Belvedere, Kunsthistoriches, Albertina and Leopold Museum, to name but a few. There, they can learn about the radical achievements of the Vienna Secession, co-founded by Klimt in 1897.

“The Viennese Modernism movement that revolutionized the art world over a century ago continues to live on and affect today’s art through the algorithms that guide A.I. creations,” said Kettner.

Check out more of Vienna Tourist Board’s A.I. creations below.

Bruegel, Tower of Babel (c.1563) and A.I. picture generated on Midjourney by Vienna Tourist Board. Photos: © Kunsthistorisches Museum and Vienna Tourist Board.

Gustav Klimt, Beethovenfries, (1901/02) at the Secession. Photo courtesy of Vienna Tourist Board.

Picture inspired by Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze, generated in 2023 using Midjourney by Vienna Tourist Board.

Colorful Facade of Hundertwasserhaus, apartment house designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser in Vienna, Wien, Austria. Photo: Petr Svarc/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

Picture of a facade inspired by Friedensreich Hundertwasser generated in 2023 on Midjourney by Vienna Tourist Board

 

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