A creepy-looking painting of a fictitious man in a dark frockcoat left the auction block at Christie’s for a whopping $432,500 on Oct. 25 in New York City. While that price tag is high – about 45 times its upper estimate – this is not what makes sales so attractive: the artwork was created by the computer rather than the human. “Portrait of Edmund Bellamy” is the first painting created by an artificial intelligence (AI) to auction the art picture.
The man with a blurry face, painted in the “Old Master” style of artists like Rembrandt van Rijn in the 17th century, is the product of the Paris art collective Obvious. This is part of a set of pictures showing the fictional Belemi family according to Christie.
The collective, which includes Hugo Cassellas-Dupper, Pierre Fowllet and Gauthier Vernier, uses AI method, called Generative Edversional Network (GN), for its compositions.
The GN algorithm includes a so-called generator (which forms the art) and a discominator (who tries to find the difference between man-made and AI-built images).
Cassellas-Duper told Christie, “We fed the system with the data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th century, in the 20th place.” “If the generator creates a new image based on the set, then the Diskminator tries to find the difference between the man-made image and the one created by the generator. Its purpose is to fool the discmanator into thinking that new images are real life portraits. Then we have the result. ”
According to Christie, the discriminating human is more easily fooled than the eye. Thus, the image of Belaimi looks distorted, or as Christie describes it, as one of Glenn Brown’s art-historical regulas.
It was a bold step to ensure AI was taken to the picture. Christie said, “It must also be a matter of fact that illustration is a very difficult style for AI, because humans are highly attached to the curve and complexity of such a face, as the machine can not be.”
The group also did some work with the nodes and the landscape using its algorithms. “But we found that Portraits have given us the best way to portray our point, that algorithms are able to emulate creativity,” Kellas-Duper told Christie.
As for “who” is the artist behind the painting, is it the algorithm — which forms the artist signature on the painting itself — or the creators of the algorithm? “If the artist is the one that creates the image, then that would be the machine,” Caselles-Dupré said. “If the artist is the one that holds the vision and wants to share the message, then that would be us.”
Regardless of artwork authorship, the sale signals “the arrival of AI art on the world auction stage,” according to Christie’s.