Culture / Auctions

Christie’s Just sold A.I. created “The Portrait of Edmond Belamy” artwork for $432,500

A recent half-million dollar Christie’s auction involving “The Portrait of Edmond Belamy” created by computers might suggest that creative work is not be all that impervious to incursions of technology

Oct 29, 2018 | By Jonathan Ho

While artificial intelligence and robotics have been replacing members of the workforce in almost every conceivable industry, It has been commonly held belief that the arts and artists would be that final, perhaps impenetrable frontier. However, a recent half-a-million dollars Christie’s auction involving “The Portrait of Edmond Belamy” artwork created by artificial intelligence might suggest that creative work might not be all that impervious to incursions of technology either.

“The aim is to fool the discriminator into thinking that the new images are real-life portraits. Then we have a result,” – Obvious co-founder Hugo Caselles-Dupré

Using a new type of algorithm developed by a Google researcher, Ian Goodfellow; Paris-based art collective, Obvious, designed the portrait to replicate the gilded frame The Portrait of Edmond Belamy reminiscent of 18th or 19th  portraits.

 

Christie’s Just sold an Artificial Intelligence artwork – “The Portrait of Edmond Belamy” for US$432,500

The final hammered price eclipsed the initial Christie’s New York estimate of price US$7,000-$10,000.  “The Portrait of Edmond Belamy” artwork was created by an artificially intelligent program and it sold at the Christie’s New York auction for US$432,000.

“AI is just one of several technologies that will have an impact on the art market of the future – although it is far too early to predict what those changes might be,” -Christie’s specialist Richard Lloyd

Described as a “portly gentleman, possibly French and — to judge by his dark frockcoat and plain white collar — a man of the church.”, the A.I. created Portrait of Edmond Belamy is not the first artwork created by artificial intelligence but it’s the first such artificially created painting which has sold for such a high price tag.

In a statement to BBC regarding A.I. created Portrait of Edmond Belamy, Christie’s specialist Richard Lloyd opined, “AI is just one of several technologies that will have an impact on the art market of the future – although it is far too early to predict what those changes might be.”

Using a set of 15,000 data points, essentially 15,000 portraits from the 14th to 20th centuries, to give the artificial intelligence a library of common features and painting quirks, The Portrait of Edmond Belamy was the cumulative result of machine learning. What’s not obvious is that the artificial intelligence also compared its own work with those of the data set and deviated sufficiently from obvious commonalities until its own creation was an independent creation that was quantitatively and aesthetically different from the 15,000 artworks it analysed.

The artificially created artwork has energised discussion within the art community as to what constitutes as art. It must be noted though that the emergence of cameras and photography was derided by critics in the 1850s as “it required highly qualified engineers, that it was not art and that it would destroy the artists”. Today, it’s recognised as mere tool for art. A programmable, artificial “artist” on the other hand, is an entirely different premise.

 

 

 


 
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