GANksy is the uncanny AI street art 2020 deserves

Just like Banksy except much more unsettling.

Artificial intelligence is adept at doing many things: making deepfakes, determining disaster-related damage, and virtual urban planning, just to name a few. There are also some tasks that AI hasn’t picked up quite as well — like art. That’s a bit of an understatement. AI art is downright disturbing.

This case is proven perfectly by GANksy, a clever piece of AI that’s been trained on the work of renowned street artist Banksy. The results of GANksy’s artistic pursuits to date have been strange, to say the least.

GANksy was “born into the cloud” just last month and has produced an impressive amount of art since. GANksy’s creators call it a “fully-formed artist,” which might be something of a stretch.

If nothing else, GANksy is a perfect example of how AI can stretch the creation process into entirely new forms.

Trained on the best — GANksy gets its name from the StyleGAN2 neural network upon which it was trained. StyleGAN2 is a generative adversarial network (GAN), one of the most popular machine learning frameworks available. It’s the same type of network used for projects like This Person Does Not Exist, a series of unsettlingly realistic AI-created photos.

After its birth, GANsky was trained on hundreds of photos of street art created by Banksy. Talk about a unique educational experience.

Twisted visual artist — According to its creators, GANksy wants nothing more than to be “put into a robot body so it can spraypaint the entire planet.” Maybe it would be better if that didn’t happen.


GANksy’s creators call the AI a “twisted visual artist.” At least one or three of those words is true. It's definitely twisted.

Smart doesn’t mean art — As experimentation with artificial intelligence continues forward with momentum, it’s improving our lives in many areas. Everything from illness-prediction to fighting simulations have proven we’re improving our AI-creation skills.

Art is one sector where artificial intelligence still often falls short of human expectation. While AI can mimic style, it tends to lack conceptual substance, and we end up with unreal illustrations of nature and hyper-detailed historical videos that don't ring true. Art is, for now, one area where computers can’t convincingly match humans.

GANksky’s variety of art might just be the best reflection of 2020. It’s unsettling and uncanny — the wide proliferation of Banky’s art means GANksy’s will look just familiar enough to set off a few bells of recognition. GANksky might not be the art we want, but it’s certainly the art we deserve.