Anadol’s Artistic Research for Hennessy and Glacier Dreams: Balancing Innovation and Ethics

Refik Anadol, a prominent AI artist, utilizes data and AI to create thought-provoking artworks.  This article examines two of his collaborations.  In 2021, Anadol partnered with Hennessy, observing their cognac tasting process and using AI to generate an artwork.  This collaboration reflects the growing trend of AIART in marketing campaigns.  However, a 2023 project with Julius Baer, Glacier Dreams, takes a different approach.  Glacier Dreams leverages AI and data aesthetics to explore climate change.  While this project highlights the potential of AIART for artistic research and social responsibility, critics point to its significant carbon footprint.  The article debates whether Anadol’s work represents a genuine exploration of climate issues or a form of „greenwashing.“  Ultimately, the future of AIART likely lies in a balance between artistic research and market forces, with ethical considerations remaining paramount.

Refik Anadol is a renowned AIART artist who has gained international recognition for his innovative approach to using data and artificial intelligence to create immersive and thought-provoking artworks. In 2021, he embarked on a unique collaboration with the Hennessy brand, a renowned cognac producer. The title „Refik Anadol Collaborates with Hennessy“ might sound familiar, and for good reason. Hennessy invited Anadol to their historic headquarters in Cognac, France, to observe the tasting process. He was allowed to capture this protected tasting ritual in real time and use neuroscientific research methods, along with the collected data and AI systems, to create an artwork. Such a collaboration would not be unusual. However, the uniqueness may have lain in the groundbreaking way in which the AIART artist did not create a work in the traditional sense, but rather conducted artistic research. I reflected on this collaboration appropriately but did not attach any special significance to it, as I primarily saw a marketing effort to attract attention behind the project.

In 2023, Anadol partnered with the private bank Julius Baer as part of their NEXT initiative, which was designed to support interdisciplinary research into megatrends in art, science and technology. The result of this collaboration is the Glacier Dreams project, designed at the intersection of multisensory new media art, AI systems and data aesthetics drawing on environmental studies. The main data analysis is based on parameterized data on shrinking glaciers. The project has the ambition to make a significant contribution to glacier research and to raise awareness of climate change and rising sea levels. At first glance, this attempt by Anadol seems to confirm the trend of incorporating AIART artistic research into marketing campaigns with social responsibility. However, this project has one or more „buts“.

Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” v Museum of Modern Art, foto: Ben Davis,


Referring to Anadol’s interview for StirWorldl [1],  his efforts can be understood in relation to the use of AI and the most modern algorithms, techniques and aesthetics as a potential to draw attention to climate issues. On the other hand, the huge carbon footprint of such a project, with more than 85,000,000 images illuminated over a vast area, calls into question this effort as insincere. In the article MoMA’s Glorified Lava Lamp Refik Anadol’s Unsupervised is a crowd-pleasing, like-generating mediocrity [2]. Jerry Saltz sees Anadol as a hypocrite. He describes a very similar project Unsupervised (2022) as a 24-foot-tall screen emitting a continuous stream of „psychedelic mush and bacterial droplets“. He further states that high art and mass entertainment have never been so interconnected thanks to social media and market dictates.

Refik Anadol in artistic research on Hennessy cognac


Perhaps I should still understand Jerry Saltz with great distance, although he is a renowned American art critic known for his insightful, provocative and often humorous analyses of contemporary art. What is important is that a certain kind of living relationship between AIART conducting artistic research and the structures that create the market environment seems to be capable of survival. It is already predictable that Anadol’s research-artistic realizations will be significantly supported by luxury brands. I admit that it is more than likely that the AI craze will eventually subside, but this trend will defend itself as an aesthetically interesting investment based on artistic research.

Author: Tomáš Marušiak, 2024


1.            WORLD, STIR and KUMAR, Rahul. In conversation with Refik Anadol on his AI generated installation “Glacier Dreams.” Online. 2023. Available from:

2.            SALTZ, Jerry. MoMA’s Glorified Lava Lamp. Online. February 2023. Available from: Anadol’s Unsupervised is a crowd-pleasing, like-generating mediocrity.