Christie’s Gives AI-Generated Art its Due

by Paula Newton October 18, 2018

AI-generated “Edward de Belamy”

AI-generated work has been around for a while. (Think of Roxy Paine as a precursor to the artist/machine/randomness collaboration.) Now, writes Christie’s and the Smithsonian, Christie’s is getting in on the action. This month, it will hold an auction of this thought-provoking work.

Ian Goodfellow was the inventor of generative adversarial networks, also known as GAN, the type of AI used by Obvious, a Paris-based collective, to create the portrait of the fictional Edmond de Belamy (pictured above).

“This new technology allows us to experiment on the notion of creativity for a machine, and the parallel with the role of the artist in the creation process,” Hugo Caselles-Dupré, a representative of Obvious, said in a news release. “The approach invites the observer to consider and evaluate the similarities and distinctions between the mechanics within the human brain, such as the creative process, and the ones of an algorithm.”

GAN is comprised of two algorithmic components, a generator and a discriminator, which together are fed a data set of 15,000 portraits. The generator makes new images based on the set, while the discriminator reviews all outputs until it deems the result indistinguishable from handmade versions.

“AI has already been incorporated as a tool by contemporary artists and as this technology further develops, we are excited to participate in these continued conversations,” says Richard Lloyd, international head of prints & multiples for Christie’s. “To best engage in the dialogue, we are offering a
public platform to exhibit an artwork that has entirely been realized by an algorithm.”

The Smithsonian writes:

Nonetheless, many are skeptical of AI art. Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz has said he finds the art produced by AI artist boring and dull, including “The Butcher’s Son.”

Perhaps they’re correct in some cases. In the deformed portraits, for example, you could argue that the resulting images aren’t all that interesting: They’re really just imitations – with a twist – of pre-curated inputs.

But it’s not just about the final image. It’s a about the creative process – one that involves an artist and a machine collaborating to explore new visual forms in revolutionary ways.

AI art creative process


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