𝒎𝒊𝒏 𝑮 𝒎𝒂𝒙 𝑫 𝔼𝒙 [𝒍𝒐𝒈 𝑫 (𝒙))] + 𝔼𝒛 [𝒍𝒐𝒈(𝟏 − 𝑫(𝑮(𝒛)))], Portrait of Edmond de Belamy, by Obvious Art.
Photo: Christie's

This Historic Auction Will Include Art Made Using AI

Christie’s will become the first auction house to sell a painting made by a computer

History will be made later this fall when Christie’s sells a work made using artificial intelligence, marking the first time an auction house has ever done so.

“It may not have been painted by a man in a powdered wig, but it is exactly the kind of artwork we have been selling for 250 years,” said Richard Lloyd, a specialist at Christie’s who is organizing the sale.

The print is the work of French art collective Obvious, which developed its own algorithm to create original art. Its method is used in conjunction with the Generative Adversarial Network, which was invented by AI researcher Ian Goodfellow in 2014.

Recommended: This Ferrari Could Fetch $60 Million at Auction

“The algorithm is composed of two parts,” Hugo Caselles-Dupré, a member of the Paris-based collective, explained in a statement. “On one side is the Generator, on the other the Discriminator. 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.”

The work, dubbed Portrait of Edmond Belamy, is currently on view at Christie’s in London and is estimated to sell for between $7,000 and $10,000 as part of the auction house’s Prints & Multiples sale, taking place October 23–25. It’s one in a series of 11 portraits of the fictional Belamy family, a sly nod to Goodfellow, whose name translates to bel ami in French.

“We really believe that AI can be a new tool for art,” Caselles-Dupré told Artnet. “In 1850, when the camera showed up, it was only used by highly qualified engineers and so it was not considered for its artistic potential. We think we are in the same situation, because people view us as engineers but we really think this type of technology will be used more and more in art.”

The relationship between Obvious and the auction house began earlier this year, when Christie’s staged a symposium on the profound implications of blockchain for artists and collectors.

“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,” Lloyd said in a statement. “It will be exciting to see how this revolution plays out.”


Sign up to receive the best in art, design, and culture from Galerie

Thank you!