Art by a famous artist can go for millions of dollars at auction. Unfortunately for most artists those figures come well after the person has died so they are not able to see any of that compensation for their creative efforts nor are they able to reap the adoration from the public. Those days may be soon over and not for the reason that you may think. In fact art as we know it has been changed and it may spell the end for the human artist.

Edmond de Belamy

An arts collective in Paris, France called Obvious created a computer algorithm that incorporated AI to create a work of art. The AI took into account 15,000 portraits ranging from the 14th Century to the 20th Century to produce portrait called Edmond de Belamy, a somewhat portly gentleman with a white collar, which indicates he could be a religious figure.. It is a bit blurry and is 700 mm x 700 mm in size and the work appears to be unfinished. It is also signed “min G max D x [log (D(x))] + z [log(1 – D (G(z)))]”, which does not quite roll off the tongue the way Dali or van Gogh does.

Obvious has created several pieces of art of the Belamy family, who are fictional. The artist collective has been at the forefront of exploring the capabilities of AI in art. A generator analyzed the 15,000 portraits that were fed into it and created a new image. There were certain criticisms about the work besides the noticable blurriness. Utilizing shadows, showing curves or the complexity of the human face in the portrait were hardly at the level of a skilled human artist but for a first time effort it was pretty good. The portrait is also lacking emotion, something that AI is not capable of incorporating at this time.

AI is the new artist

The collective had tried a few other genres of painting like landscapes and nudes before settling on portraits. They are actually not alone as the Art and Artificial Intelligence Lab at Rutgers University has also been producing creative works of art. This has been more novelty art but it shows that AI has the potential for creativity. Observers have been unable to differentiate between human art and machine art when put on display. Art is mathematics after all which makes it perfect for AI.

A nice payout at auction

The work was put up for auction by Christie’s Auction House and it was expected to draw at most $10,000. The novelty of the work would be what separated the work from others. When all was said and done the work sold for $432,500 to an anonymous buyer. This also leads to the question of who created the work, Obvious or their AI and thus who receives the payment.

We all know that art is constantly changing. AI may soon be able to industrially produce paintings or creative designs which will put many human artists or graphic designers out of work. Andy Warhol would could have been proud. Will their industry be yet another casualty of automation or will human artists be able to compete with machine artists on a level playing field? We will probably find out in about 20 years. At least a shredder was not included with this piece of art!

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