Generative Art Explained: What Museums Need to Know

Generative Art Explained: What Museums Need to Know

Understanding generative art is important for museums because it is a growing and influential field within the art world. While some museums may be against any type of computer-generated artform, generative art is going to continue to grow in influence and relevance in the next five years.  

What is generative art? 

Generative art is a form of art that is created using algorithms, computer programs, or other mechanical processes that involve some level of randomness or autonomy. 

This means that the artist creates a set of rules or instructions, and the computer or other mechanical process follows those instructions to create the artwork. 

The result is a unique piece of art with a degree of unpredictability, as the artist cannot fully control the outcome of the process.

One key difference between generative art and traditional art is that traditional art is typically created by a single artist who has complete control over the creative process and the final result. 

On the other hand, generative art involves collaboration between the artist and the computer or mechanical process, with the artist providing the rules or instructions and the computer or process carrying out those instructions.

Algorithms and computer programs play a central role in creating generative art. The artist creates a set of instructions or rules for the computer or program to follow, and the computer or program then uses those rules to generate the artwork. 

This can involve mathematical algorithms to create patterns or shapes or machine learning techniques to create art based on data or other inputs.

The history and evolution of generative art can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s when artists and computer scientists began experimenting with using computers to create art. At first, this involved simple programs that created basic patterns or shapes, but the complexity and sophistication of generative art have increased significantly over time. 

Today, generative art can involve various techniques and technologies, including machine learning, data visualization, and even virtual and augmented reality.

Potential uses for generative art in the museum industry

Generative art has the potential to be used in a variety of ways within the museum industry, including digital art exhibitions and auctions using non-fungible tokens (NFTs), interactive exhibits and educational resources utilizing generative art, and collaborative art projects and workshops using generative art techniques.

Digital art exhibitions and auctions using NFTs are a relatively new development in the art world. Still, they have quickly gained popularity for artists and collectors to sell and purchase unique digital artworks. 

NFTs are digital assets that use blockchain technology to verify the authenticity and ownership of digital artwork.

They allow artists to sell digital art in the same way physical art is sold, with the added benefit of easily displaying and sharing the art online. 

Generative art is well-suited for digital art exhibitions and auctions using NFTs because it can produce unique, one-of-a-kind artworks that cannot be easily duplicated.

Interactive exhibits and educational resources utilizing generative art can be a great way for museums to engage visitors and teach them about the art and technology behind generative art. 

These exhibits could include interactive installations that allow visitors to manipulate generative art algorithms and create their artworks or educational resources such as videos, lectures, or workshops that teach visitors about the history and techniques of generative art.

Collaborative art projects and workshops using generative art techniques can also be a great way for museums to engage visitors and encourage creativity. 

These projects could involve visitors working together to create generative art pieces using software or other tools or workshops or classes taught by artists specializing in generative art. Collaborative art projects and workshops can be a great way for museums to bring communities together and foster creativity and innovation.

Here are a few reasons why museums might want to think outside the box when it comes to generative art:

1. Generative art can be highly interactive and engaging for museum visitors. 

By using technology to create interactive installations, museums can create immersive experiences that draw in visitors and encourage them to explore and engage with the art in new ways.

2. Generative art can be a powerful tool for exploring complex themes and ideas. 

Because algorithms and programs generate it, generative art can be used to explore topics such as data, technology, and artificial intelligence in a visually appealing and interactive way.

3. Generative art can be a way for museums to showcase diverse and emerging artists. 

Because it is created using technology, generative art is not bound by the same physical constraints as traditional art forms, allowing museums to showcase work from a wider range of artists and cultural perspectives.

To think differently about generative art, museums might consider the following:

4. Consider the role of the artist in the creation of generative art. 

While algorithms and programs play a central role in creating generative art, the artist still plays a crucial role in shaping and directing the final product. 

Museums should consider how to properly credit and recognize the contributions of artists working in this medium.

5. Explore the ethical implications of generative art. 

As with any form of art, ethical considerations should be taken into account when displaying generative art in a museum setting. For example, museums should consider how to address issues such as intellectual property, privacy, and consent when showcasing generative art.

6. Reflect on the role of the museum in the exhibition of generative art.

Museums have a long tradition of showcasing and preserving physical art objects, but generative art challenges this traditional approach. Museums should consider adapting their exhibition and preservation practices to accommodate digital and ephemeral art forms such as generative art.

Challenges and considerations for museums when using generative art

There are several technical hurdles and considerations that museums may need help with when using generative art in their exhibitions or programming. 

These may include the need for specialized software and hardware, the cost and complexity of implementing and managing generative art projects and ensuring accessibility and inclusivity for all audiences.

One major challenge is the need for specialized software and hardware to create and display generative art. This may require museums to invest in new technology or hire individuals with expertise using these tools. 

This can be expensive for museums, particularly if they need existing infrastructure or personnel to support these projects.

In addition to the cost of acquiring the necessary software and hardware, managing and maintaining these systems is also challenging. 

This may require ongoing technical support and training for museum staff, as well as regular updates and upgrades to keep the systems running smoothly.

Another important consideration for museums using generative art is accessibility and inclusivity. Museums should ensure that their generative art installations are accessible to all audiences, including those with disabilities. 

This may require specialized assistive technologies, such as screen readers or audio descriptions, and careful consideration of the user experience for people with different abilities and needs.

While generative art can be a powerful and engaging tool for museums, it is important for institutions to carefully consider the technical challenges and costs involved in implementing and managing these projects and the need to ensure accessibility and inclusivity for all audiences.

How museums can get started with generative art

Here are some ways by which museums can get started with generative art.

Step 1. Researching and choosing reputable generative art software or platforms

When choosing generative art software or platforms, it's important to research and compare the available options to determine which one best fits your museum's goals and resources. This might involve looking at reviews from other users, checking out demos or samples of the software's capabilities, and considering factors such as cost, ease of use, and the types of outputs it can produce. 

Step2. Training staff on the basics of generative art and how to use it in museum exhibits and workshops

Once you've chosen a generative art software or platform, you must train staff on how to use it effectively.

This could involve in-person training sessions or online tutorials, depending on your resources and the needs of your staff. Training might cover topics such as creating basic generative art designs, using the software's interface, and incorporating generative art into museum exhibits and workshops.

Step 3. Considering offering educational resources or events to educate the public on generative art and its potential applications.

Museums have a unique opportunity to educate the public about generative art and its potential applications. This could involve offering workshops or lectures on generative art, hosting exhibitions featuring generative artworks, or providing educational resources such as handouts or online tutorials.

For example, a museum might host a workshop on how to create generative art using p5.js or create an exhibition featuring generative artworks created by artists worldwide.

Step 4. Collaborating with artists and experts in the field to create unique generative art projects for your museum

Collaborating with artists and experts in the field of generative art can be a great way to bring new perspectives and fresh ideas to your museum's programming. This could involve hosting artist residencies, commissioning new works, or working with artists to develop interactive installations or other projects.

For example, a museum might work with an artist to create a generative art installation that responds to visitors' movements or commission a generative art project that explores a specific theme or issue.


Generative art offers a unique opportunity for museums to engage with their audience in new and interactive ways while also showcasing the intersection of art and technology.

While there are challenges to using generative art, the benefits outweigh the risks for museums willing to embrace this innovative approach to art creation.

Museums can get started with generative art by researching and choosing reputable software or platforms, training staff, offering educational resources, and collaborating with artists and experts.