An artwork created by Paris-based art collective Obvious using artificial intelligence has been sold at Christie’s auction house in New York for nearly half a million dollars.
The AI painting, titled Portrait of Edmond de Belamy, sold for for $432,000, more than 40 times the estimated selling price of $7,000 to $10,000.
The AI-generated “Portrait of Edmond Belamy” depicts a slightly blurry chubby man in a dark frock-coat and white collar, and his off-centre position leaves enough white space to show the artist’s signature as “min max Ex[log(D(x))] + Ez[log(1-D(G(z)))],” a mathematical algorithm.
Christie’s became the first auction house to put an artwork generated by an algorithm under the hammer, when the abstract portrait was sold by the company’s New York branch.
The painting was purchased via telephone by an anonymous French bidder. Prior to the auction, Christie’s reportedly invested a considerable amount of time in making the item appealing to buyers. The work became the matter of press releases, was granted interviews and advertised as being “on canvass” and “in a gilded frame.” Private viewings and public showings of the piece were also held. Furthermore, it was strategically placed between work by Warhol and Lichtenstein boosting its earning potential. Made by a group of French students named Obvious, the work is a product of “machine learning” and “business school.”
Experts have come forward criticizing the piece for falsely claiming the title of the “first portrait generated by an algorithm to come up for auction,” with Vulture’s Jerry Saltz writing, “it is a flat-out lie.”