Christie's Will Hold the First Major Auction of an AI-Generated Artwork

Christie's / Christie's

An upcoming auction in New York City suggests that the art world might be ready to embrace robot artists. In October, Christie's will be the first major auction house to put artwork generated by artificial intelligence up for sale, according to Artnet.

The print, called Portrait of Edmond de Belamy, is one of several AI-generated works created by the French art collective Obvious. Obvious trained an algorithm using a dataset of 15,000 portraits from the 14th to 20th centuries to create a portrait series depicting the fictional Belamy family, all vaguely in the style of an 18th-century European painter.

To make the series, first the artificial intelligence program learned to create new art drawing on its knowledge of past portraiture. Then, it tested whether the portraits it generated could fool a test designed to distinguish human-made paintings from AI-generated ones. Obvious dubbed these two aspects of the algorithm the Generator and the Discriminator.

Portrait of Edmond de Belamy
Portrait of Edmond de Belamy / Obvious

Eleven of the resulting portraits that passed the test make up a series called La Famille de Belamy. The Portrait of Edmond de Belamy is the most recent work in the series. (You can see the rest here.) Christie's estimates that the painting is worth $7000 to $10,000.

"We wish to emphasize the parallel between the input parameters used for training an algorithm, and the expertise and influences that craft the style of an artist," Obvious member Hugo Caselles-Dupré said in a press release. "Most of all, we want the viewer to focus on the creative process: an algorithm usually functions by replicating human behavior, but it learns by using a path of its own."

The piece will be sold during Christie's Prints and Multiples auction, which will run from October 23 to 25.

[h/t Artnet]