Gallery Director Aidan Meller is a specialist in modern and contemporary art and runs a gallery internationally. With over 20 years of 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, and Chagall, to older works such as John Constable, Turner and Millais. Aidan is the visionary mind behind Ai-Da Robot Artist.
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.
Here are some of Aidan Meller’s main takeaways from the interview with Dinis Guarda:
Career and Research
“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 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 exhaustive research, comparing styles, movements, artworks, etc and I became very frustrated because I couldn’t get a clear blueprint 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, and 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.”
“My art research has pointed me to the issues of the day. So I started a further research project: What are the issues of tomorrow, the 2020s? And after reading and studying widely we found out that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are 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, creates AI-based artwork, and explores the issues of AI today?”
Ai-Da’s first steps, AI and creativity
"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 is now capable of making its 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 of 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 doesn’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 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 about listening to people. Ultimately, that is the conversation we need to have and what we are doing is channelling that discussion through Ai-Da.”
Recognition and Awards