This week the Mauritshuis unveiled the paintings that are set to fill the space left by the Girl with the Pearl Earring, and one of the museum’s selections has led to a little bit of controversy within the art world: a portrait, titled A Girl with Glowing Earrings, that was created not by a person, but by an artificial intelligence programme.

Girl with a Pearl Earring currently on display in Amsterdam

The Mauritshuis is missing a rather key part of its collection at the moment, after having loaned Johannes Vermeer’s iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring to the Rijksmuseum for the historic Vermeer exhibition. With the painting only due to return to its home in The Hague in April, the museum has come up with a rather innovative way to fill the gap on its wall. 

Ahead of the Vermeer exhibit, the Mauritshuis put out a call for members of the public to create “your own girl”. Almost 3.500 pieces of art were submitted in response to the request, featuring just about every medium possible, from photography and sculpture to crochet and vegetables. Just five lucky winners were selected to be displayed in the museum. 

One of the winners is A Girl with Glowing Earrings by German artist Julian van Dieken. Van Dieken didn’t use the typical tools to create his winning artwork, however. Instead, he made use of a significantly more modern medium: AI technology. A Girl with Glowing Earrings was predominantly created by Midjourney; an artificial intelligence programme that is able to create images from textual descriptions or instructions. 

AI-generated A Girl with Glowing Earrings proves controversial

The decision to feature AI-generated art has led to controversy within the art world, with experts arguing that programmes like Midjourney use the work of millions of artists, without their permission, to copy their style and create something new. As de Volkskrant reports, some within the industry have labelled the technology as parasitic and “unethical”.

“While Midjourney makes a lot of money with its software, the artists and creators whose work is involuntarily included in this dataset see nothing in return,” Eva Toorenent, an artist who is advocating for legislation to regulate technology like Midjourney, told de Volkskrant. “Without the work of human artists, this programme could not generate works at all. The higher the quality of art in the dataset, the higher the quality of the AI ​​art.”

In response to the outcry, a spokesperson for the Mauritshuis explained to de Volkskrant that artworks were selected based on what the jury liked: “Is this creative? That’s a tough question.” Van Dieken, on the other hand, was surprised and overjoyed by the success of his art. “This feels, quite frankly, completely surreal,” the artist wrote on Instagram. “There’s an image I created and shared with you, hanging in one of the most prestigious spots in the world.”

Thumb: marekusz via

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