With a vast array of over 100 museums, grand palaces, and fabled cultural institutions, Vienna—the cultural capital of Europe, long famed for its historic beauty—has been at the forefront of progressive out-of-the-box thinking.
In an effort to inspire the next generation of travelers to visit Austria’s beguiling cultural capital, the Vienna Tourist Board has launched a cheeky new marketing campaign called UnArtificial Art and is asking viewers to dig a bit deeper and rediscover some of the city’s most iconic masterpieces. Using artificial intelligence (AI), some of the country’s most celebrated pieces of art have been re-created to include the internet’s beloved domestic pet—cats—in an effort to remind viewers to have a little fun, while also taking a moment to see and appreciate the “art behind the art.”
“The campaign aims to show that AI art is only possible because an algorithm references real works made by real humans, and these originals can often only be seen in Vienna,” Norbert Kettner, CEO of the Vienna Tourist Board, told ARTnews.
In the short film that accompanies the UnArtificial Art campaign, art historian Markus Hübl takes viewers on an existential journey through some of Vienna’s most iconic masterpieces—including Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss and Pieter Bruegel’s The Tower of Babel—all of which have been enhanced using AI technology to encourage viewers to look deeper into the work of some of Austria’s most celebrated painters.
“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 AI creations,” Kettner added.
It’s unclear how Klimt—who was famously known for surrounding himself with anywhere from eight to ten pet cats at any given time—would feel about the enhancements to one of his most illustrious and frequently reproduced paintings. But the campaign, which encourages travelers to “see the art behind AI art,” will surely open itself up to interpretation by all who bear witness.
“With so much artificial intelligence invading out lives—particularly with programs like DALL-E or Midjourney, that allow anyone to create ‘works of art’ —Vienna wants to remind visitors who made that all possible in the first place,” Kettner said.
It was thanks to the help of AI technology that Vienna was able to reconstruct some of Klimt’s famous paintings that were burned by Nazis almost 75 years ago, using black-and-white photos to re-create the images from scratch.
Today, the Belvedere Museum continues to not only serve as one of Vienna’s most popular attractions, but has also partnered with Google Arts & Culture to bring some of the world’s most important classical paintings back to life in full color through the use of artificial intelligence. This year, visitors can also celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Belvedere, which houses the world’s largest Klimt collection, including one of his most famous paintings, The Kiss.
Learn more at unartificial.vienna.info.