AI-Completed Keith Haring Painting Sparks Outrage: A Disputed Act of ‘Completion’ Ignites Backlash

AI-Completed Keith Haring Painting Sparks Outrage: A Disputed Act of 'Completion' Ignites Backlash
AI-Completed Keith Haring Painting Sparks Outrage A Disputed Act of 'Completion' Ignites Backlash
This is the original artwork

A controversial incident involving the use of artificial intelligence to ‘complete’ Keith Haring’s intentionally unfinished painting has sparked outrage within the X community. The act, deemed disrespectful and a desecration by many, raises questions about the ethical use of AI in the context of art and the ongoing debate on copyright infringements related to generative AI.

Keith Haring’s Unfinished Painting (1989) intentionally left a significant portion of the canvas blank, symbolizing the void left by the HIV epidemic. Completed shortly before Haring’s death from AIDS-related complications, the work holds deep significance and commentary on the impact of the epidemic.

On December 31, 2023, a user on an unspecified platform shared an image of Haring’s Unfinished Painting filled edge to edge using generative AI, claiming to ‘complete’ what the artist had left intentionally blank. The post ignited a swift and vehement backlash from the X community, with users expressing their discontent and deeming the act disrespectful and a desecration of Haring’s original intention.

Reactions within the X community varied, with some condemning the use of AI for altering an artist’s work and others praising it for showcasing a world without AIDS. Additionally, a user attempted to use ChatGPT to speculate on how Keith Haring might feel about the completion, leading to further criticism.

The controversy comes at a time when generative AI is under increased scrutiny for potential copyright infringements. Ongoing legal action against companies like Midjourney, Stability A.I., and DeviantArt alleges unauthorized scraping of artists’ works to train text-to-image tools. OpenAI’s recent defense in the U.K. House of Lords, stating the necessity of using copyrighted materials for AI training, adds another layer to the ongoing debate.

Generative AI Faces Criticism for Allegedly Disrespectful 'Completion' of Keith Haring's Unfinished Painting
This is AIs representation that has caused quite the stir

Some artists within the X community, expressed concerns about generative AI hurting artists by unauthorized use of their works for training. She points out that AI struggles to authentically replicate artistic styles and calls the ‘completion’ of Haring’s painting abhorrent, negating its original meaning and disrespecting the memory of those lost to the AIDS epidemic.

The incident highlights the ethical dilemmas surrounding the use of generative AI in altering or ‘completing’ existing artworks, raising questions about consent, respect for artistic intent, and the potential impact on artistic expression. As debates on copyright, AI ethics, and artistic authenticity continue, incidents like these prompt a reevaluation of the role of AI in the creative realm.

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