First Piece of AI-Generated Portrait Sells For US$432,000 at Auction

An artwork created by artificial intelligence was sold for US$432,000 at Christie’s in New York. Titled Portrait of Edmond Belamy, the painting was the first piece of AI-generated artwork to go up for sale at an auction. The final price far exceeded the presale estimate of US$7,000-10,000.

The painting belongs to a group of portraits of the fictional Belamy family created by Obvious, a Paris-based collective engaged in exploring the interface between art and artificial intelligence. They fed the system with a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and the 20th centuries.

The algorithm is composed of two parts. On one side is the Generator, on the other, the Discriminator. 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.

La famille de Belamy — all the portraits in GAN’s fictitious Belamy family tree

In fact, this artificial intelligence technology has produced portraits of the whole fictitious Belamy family tree, including members like Le Comte, La Comtesse, Le Baron, La Baronne and Le Cardinal.

Le Comte

La Comtesse

Does the remarkable price fetched by the artwork indicate the arrival of AI era in the auction world? In the past, many of us believed that it would be difficult for AI to replace humans in fields that require creativity and imagination. While some see it as a threat to artists whose jobs are now at risk of being taken over by artificial intelligence, some take it as a new opportunity for man to collaborate with machine to create a new art form. We will have to wait and see what role machine will play in the art world.

First Piece of AI-generated art

Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Photographs & Prints
Auction: 23 - 25 October 2018
Estimate: US$7,000 - 10,000
Price realised: US$432,000