AI-Generated Portrait Sold at Auction for $432,500—43 Times Its Estimate

The first-ever original work of art created using artificial intelligence to come to auction, Portrait of Edmond de Belamy (2018), smashed expectations at Christie’s New York this morning when it was hammered down for $350,000 after a lively bidding war that lasted for more than six minutes.

I bet you’re wondering who signed this work. Here you have it, “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.”

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,” he explained in Christie’s description of the lot. “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.”

One of  Obvious Art’s other works was sold to a private collector for $12,000.

I am reminded of Zenph Studios “re-performance of Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations (2007) using a computer program and a player piano:

“A digital file encoded with this information would be read by Yamaha’s advanced Disklavier Pro — a computerized player piano — and transformed into music.

My thought’s about Zemph’s recording / performance was—Why?—as there’s nothing wrong with listening to Glen Gould play piano and to suggest there is puts technology before artistry. Zenph, the company, is no longer in existence.

That being said, my feelings about AI-generated paintings should be Obvious—Why?