NEW YORK — “Portrait of Edmond Belamy,” the first ever piece of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-generated art to be auctioned off at Christie’s in New York, was sold Thursday for US$432,500 to an anonymous bidder.
The final price of the painting is nearly 45 times higher than the US$7,000 to US$10,000 estimate put by the major auction house.
The painting on canvas depicts the portrait of a portly gentleman, possibly a Frenchman from a church judged by his dark frockcoat and plain white collar, Christie’s said in a press release.
The artwork was produced by a Paris-based art collective called Obvious using an algorithm known as Generative Adversarial Networks.
The algorithm is composed of a generator and a discriminator, said Hugo Caselles-Dupre, co-founder of Obvious.
“We fed the system with a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th century to the 20th,” Caselles-Dupre said.
The generator made an image based on a set of portraits, then the discriminator tried to spot the difference between a human-made image and one created by the generator. In the end, the portrait was generated when the AI algorithm believed the image is a real-life portrait by human artists, Caselles-Dupre said.
“We did some work with nudes and landscapes, and we also tried feeding the algorithm sets of works by famous painters. But we found that portraits provided the best way to illustrate our point, which is that algorithms are able to emulate creativity,” Caselles-Dupre said.
The sale of the portrait signalled the arrival of AI art on the world auction stage, Christie’s said.
“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,” said Christie’s specialist Richard Lloyd, who organized the sale.
“It will be exciting to see how this revolution plays out,” Lloyd said.
“Portrait of Edmond Belamy” is one of 11 AI paintings made by Obvious.