In 2018, Christie’s auction house in New York sold a painting, Portrait of Edmond Bellamy, for $432,500. This sales price was significant. Not because it was exceptionally high—Christie’s has had many sales that would dwarf this price—but because the painting was not made by a human being. It was created by a computer using artificial intelligence (AI).
For much of our nation’s history, the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech did not clearly protect art from government censorship. Over the course of the 20th century, however, courts gradually extended speech protections to a broader range of artistic expression, including film, dance, theater, and fine arts. Today, public officials can censor art only in limited circumstances. What are those circumstances, and what protection does the First Amendment provide?