The one profession you thought might be safe the coming robot invasion of the 21st century is also now at risk.
The first-ever work original work of art created using artificial intelligence to come to auction, Portrait of Edmond de Belamy (2018), at Christie’s New York when it was sold for $350,000 after a lively bidding war that lasted for more than six minutes.
The final price, with premium, was a 4,320% increase over the high estimate of $10,000. Competition from phone bidders over the phone, in the room, and online drove the work over its $7,000 to $10,000 estimate. After the price hit $200,000, bidding slowed up. An anonymous phone bidder won the lot after a battle between two phone bidders, an online participant in France, and one man in the room.
According to Christie’s catalogue description, the painting—
”if that is the right term”—is one of a group of portraits of the fictional Belamy family created by an AI trained by Obvious, a Paris-based collective. Its members—Hugo Caselles-Dupré, Pierre Fautrel, and Gauthier Vernier —explore the fields of art and artificial intelligence using a set of algorithms that goes by the acronym GAN, which stands for “generative adversarial network.”
According to Caselles-Dupré, the algorithm used to create the work is composed of two parts:
“On one side is the Generator, on the other the Discriminator. We fed the system with a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th century to the 20th. The Generator makes a new image based on the set, then the Discriminator tries to spot the difference between a human-made image and one created by the Generator. The aim is to fool the Discriminator into thinking that the new images are real-life portraits. Then we have a result.”
The AI-generated work was the final lot in a sale that included works by Jeff Koons, Banksy, and Christo. The Obvious work was the second most expensive lot in the sale; the top lot was Warhol‘s suite of 10 screenprints, Myths (1981), which sold for $780,500.
The AI lot was the only one that didn’t have an artist listed. The medium for the Belamy portrait is listed as
“generative Adversarial Network print, on canvas, 2018, signed with GAN model loss function in ink by the publisher, from a series of eleven unique images, published by Obvious Art, Paris, with original gilded wood frame.”
Obvious has also attracted its fair share of critics, who contend that the hype about what AI technology can do on its own is premature. Robbie Barrat, a young artist who works with AI, told artnet New,
“People have been working with low resolution GANs like this since 2015. No one in the AI and art sphere really considers them to be artists—they’re more like marketers.”
These days, isn’t ALL art marketing?
Obvious, the Paris-based collective. Hugo Caselles-Dupré, Pierre Fautrel, and Gauthier Vernier
(Photos, Christies, Obvious; via Artnet News)