Gallery Director Aidan Meller is a specialist in modern and contemporary art and runs a gallery internationally. With over 20 years’ experience in the art business, he works closely with private collectors and is often consulted by those who wish to begin, or further develop their collections. He regularly has original works by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, to older works such as John Constable, Turner and Millais. Aidan is the visionary mind behind Ai-Da Robot Artist.
Here are some of Aidan Meller’s main takeaways from the interview. Do view the video above to find out everything Aidan is working regarding Ai-Da and the future of art and technology.
Aidan Meller: I have been in the art business for over 20 years now and I have been very interested in learning more about the artist’s lives and experiences. That led to a research I did about three years ago: why are some artists so successful? What has made that 1% stand above all others? So I did a 3 month project comparing artists with each other. And we did an exhaustive research, comparing styles, movements, artworks, etc and I became very frustrated because I couldn’t get a clear blue print of all artists. So I came away frustrated, and my partner helpfully said that I wasn’t asking the right questions. So the next time I went to study these artists again, I had an epiphany moment, better questions: I realised the top 1% of artists tackled issues that were of their time, issues that are unsettling, or uncomfortable for society. So when they put their art out, there was a huge response from the audience as the audience was already engaged in the issues. The top artists were then able to connect with their audience. This was the blueprint of all the top artists.
Ai-Da’s conception. My art research has pointed to me to the issues of the day. So I started a further research project: What are the issues of tomorrow, the 2020’s? And after reading and studying widely we found out that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is going to affect almost every aspect of our society in the near future. Technology is our greatest driver and our biggest issue at the same time. So I started my third project: understanding the AI world properly. This is when the idea of Ai-Da came in. Is it possible that we can create an AI Robot Artist that embraces all the developments in AI, that creates AI-based artwork, and explores the issues of AI today?
Ai-Da’s first steps and how Ai-Da creates art. We did our first exhibition at Oxford University and we were a bit overwhelmed by the response. What started as a one-day Press Conference ended up being extended for three days. I greeted hundreds of journalists and I was impressed by their interest in Ai-Da’s work. So I asked them “Why are you so interested in Ai-Da Robot?” The response was consistent among them: Robots do repetitive work, they didn’t expect a robot in the creative field. That was mind-blowing, so to speak, in the “human” realm.
But Machine Learning now is capable of making their own decisions out of the data processing and that involves some sort of creativity from the algorithm itself. Every time that Ai-Da draws a portrait from a person, she will do it differently because she will come to another conclusion each time. And we wanted her to come to different conclusions each time because that is the nature of creativity. You need to have something that is new, surprising and adds value. So Ai-Da’s code is actually unique to her.
Technology and Ethics. For me it is not about the particular divisions that exist now between technologies, companies, developments, etc because the public don’t see that. It is about messaging, about the ability to transmit a specific message and the engagement from the public. So we spent a lot of time and effort making sure that Ai-Da is able to reach people where they are. We wanted for people to be involved in this project. People’s lives are already being affected by AI and ML and all the new technologies. It is not about a few decision-makers at the top deciding what to create but listening to people. Ultimately, that is the conversation we need to have and what we are doing is channeling that discussion through Ai-Da.
An author on the subject, of the art market and western art history, Aidan has been consulted by the media as an expert in his field, with recent appearances on the BBC, CNN and Sky News regarding affairs such as the exhumation of Salvador Dali. Aidan’s art discoveries include a collection of Pre-Raphaelite cartoons for stained glass from Heaton Butler and Bayne and Powell & Sons. Celebrated as a major Pre-Raphaelite find, the collection was authenticated by in-house and external experts.
Meller’s ancestral connection to the arts runs deep. His parents were historians who ran a small family museum; his father, in particular, is an avid collector of 18th-century work. Furthermore, his great-great grandparents worked on the Gopsall Estate, a Country House in Leicestershire and were surrounded by many treasures until the estate was sold.
The Aidan Meller Galleries continue to develop their art programs; their extraordinary growth was highlighted in 2016 when Aidan took on an Elizabethan Manor to showcase artworks. He now shows some of the rarest and most exciting works in the art industry.
In 2019 Aidan developed the concept of the world’s first ultra realistic robot artist called Ai-Da. Bringing a team of experts together, called the Oxfordians, Aidan was able to devise a cutting edge artistically creative robot. Named after Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer of all time, Ai-Da’s first exhibition at the University of Oxford created a media storm, appearing in over 1000 publications worldwide. This led the way to Ai-Da appearing at the Barbican, Tate Exchange at the Tate Modern, and being interviewed by Tim Marlow, the then Artistic Director of the Royal Academy. In February 2020 Ai-Da gave a TEDx talk to great acclaim.
Ai-Da is the world's first ultra realistic robot artist, and is the vision of gallery director Aidan Meller. Her first exhibition, ‘Unsecured Futures’ was displayed at the University of Oxford, in June/July 2019.
Currently her medium is pencil, pen and paint. She uses facial recognition technology to create human portraits. In Addition to her drawing techniques, she is also a performance artist, taking part in art performances and art videos. She reads aloud using a blend of AI Language model and telepresence. As a humanoid robot, she is an art object in herself, raising questions surrounding biotechnology and trans-humanism.
Ai-Da’s robotic hand and ability to draw have been developed by AI engineers at Leeds University. Ai-Da's drawing arm system has multiple stages and contains numerous Algorithms; starting with analysing the person in-front of Ai-Da and moving on to create a virtual path for Ai-Da’s arm. Once this virtual path has been created, it is fed into a path execution algorithm that gives real-space co-ordinates, enabling her arm to produce the actual sketches.
Ai-Da was manufactured by Engineered Arts in Cornwall, and was completed in February 2019. Ai-Da has a “RoboThespian” body, featuring an expressive range of movements and she has the ability to talk. Ai-Da has a “Mesmer” head, featuring realistic silicone skin, 3D Printed teeth & gums, integrated eye cameras, as well as individually punched hair. Ai-Da has legs but she cannot walk, she has the ability to stand upright or sit upright in a chair. Her arms move freely, as does her torso and head. She can also lean forward and back, wave her arms, and look around in all directions.
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Ai-Da Robot Youtube channel
Ai-Da, the first ultra-realistic humanoid AI robot artist.
The Intersection of Art and AI | Ai-Da Robot | TEDxOxford
Amazing! Conversation Between Robots - The Hunt for AI - BBC
Humanoid robot Aida's drawings on display
Sadie had been in conversation with Aida the artist robot for some time, when the Tate Exchange at the Tate modern invited her to be a part of A vibe called Tech
Inspiration Series | Ai-Da, The World's First Ultra Realistic Robot Artist
This Robot Artist Just Became the First to Stage a Solo Exhibition. What Does That Say About Creativity?
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"Unsecured Futures – The art of Ai-Da Robot". St John's College. Retrieved 2019-11-21
An AI Robot Artist Is Creating Art That Has Sold for More Than £1 Million https://interestingengineering.com/an-ai-robot-artist-is-creating-art-that-has-sold-for-more-than-1-million
Salah is designing an arm for the Ai-Da artist robot https://www.iconinc.co.uk/our-community/blog/salah-designing-arm-for-aida-robot
Ai-Da: the world's first robot artist
Ai-Da at Ars Electronica https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv1VCOukPUg