Some art purists might beg to differ, arguing that these GIFs misconstrue an artist’s intention, or make light of the original work. One can imagine a die-hard fan of 18th-century painting scoffing at a remixed portrait of William Wrightson, a wealthy British Parliamentarian; his GIF version is stuck in an endless loop of hand-flipping, eye-rolling, and eyebrow-raising. The animation brings spunk and personality to this stiff, powder-wigged statesman. But it also transforms the original artwork in ways that its creator certainly would never have anticipated.
Art UK and GIPHY don’t see a problem with this. Instead, they see the creation of GIFs based on artworks as a means to more deeply engage with art—and inspire creativity, too. “Art is a living thing that should be open to interpretation and engaged with in different ways, seen in different contexts and from different angles,” said Gipson.
Spool agreed. “Artworks can exist in many different spheres at once. If artists are inspired to work in tandem with classics, it would be wrong to deny the opportunity for exposure of those paintings to new audiences,” she explained. “You never know—perhaps the next classic painter starts out as a GIF artist!”