To attract museum visitors, Vienna turns to AI (and cats)

Left: Egon Schiele, “Self-portrait with a Chinese Lantern Plant” (1912); right: Mid-trip AI image generated by the Vienna Tourist Office (all images courtesy of the Vienna Tourist Office)

from a pawthat interpretation of “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt (1907-1908) to a purrPerfect remix of Egon Scheiele’s “Self-Portrait with Chinese Lantern Plant” (1912), Vienna Tourist Office use artificial intelligence to generate feline spin-offs of classical Austrian works of art. The luscious images are part of a new marketing campaign aimed at encouraging tourists to visit Vienna and “see the art behind the AI ​​art.”

The AI-generated cat versions of famous works come at a time when shows like DALL-E and MidJourney face criticism from artists for possible plagiarism and stolen intellectual property. But rather than shy away from AI, the board decided to lean into the controversial technology and explore the ways it can be a fun and educational tool; see, for example, a version of Pieter Bruegel’s “Tower of Babel” (c. 1563). which features a seven-story building covered in cats.

Left: Pieter Bruegel, “Tower of Babel” (c. 1563); right: mid-trip AI image generated by the Vienna Tourist Board

Along with the AI ​​artwork, the tourism board also released a cheeky video with art historian Markus Hübl. In the video, Hübl takes viewers through some of Vienna’s fine art museums to reflect on some of the masterpieces (and their AI-cat counterparts) that visitors get to see in real life in the capital. austrian

At the Belvedere Museum, Hübl explains the meaning behind the intricate details in Klimt’s “The Kiss.”

“A man and a woman on top of a small part of the rock. These very strict hard shapes symbolize the masculine system and the very soft circles symbolize the feminine system,” she says, explaining the juxtaposition of the square and circular patterns in the iconic painting.

He then turns his attention towards the AI ​​version on a tablet. Like the original work, the interpretation of the cat features two figures, each emanating opposite energies as they become entangled in a passionate embrace. Except instead of a human couple, this painting consists of two kittens.

“Cats are an ambiguous symbol. On the one hand, by debauchery. On the other hand, most are neutered and live on our floors. We’re looking for both phenomena: softness and sweetness, and untamed wildness. Aren’t they both driving forces of creativity and art? What a metaphor,” she jokes.

Left: Gustav Klimt, “The Kiss” (1907–1908); right: mid-trip AI image generated by the Vienna Tourist Board

At the Leopold Museum, Hübl offers some background behind Schieele’s “Self-Portrait with a Chinese Lantern Plant,” highlighting the power of Schiele’s direct eye contact and the cultural subcontext behind the self-portrait. He then turns to the AI ​​version, which shows a distraught cat dressed in a black blazer.

“A mangy, disheveled cat comes into direct contact with us, face to face. It is also a bit morbid, one ear appears to be cut off and the fur is muddy. The cat doesn’t look very happy, but can we really understand what is going on in his soul? he asks.

“Maybe this cat, like all the other cats on the internet, wants to tell us: look at me.”

Image by Midjourney AI (2023), inspired by Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze” (1902)