AI-generated portrait sells for a whopping $432,000 at auction

Johnny Lieu

Well, here's another job artificial intelligence can do instead of humans.

AI-generated artwork Portrait of Edmond Belamy sold for 45 times its anticipated price at Christie's, going under the hammer for an eye-watering $435,000 in New York.

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While the painting (of sorts) is done by computers, the project is actually the creation of Obvious, a Parisian collective consisting of Hugo Caselles-Dupré, Pierre Fautrel and Gauthier Vernier.

It's the first AI-created artwork that's gone to auction, and was created by an algorithm which uses thousands of portraits to create the image.

"The algorithm is composed of two parts," Caselles-Dupré explained in a statement online. "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."

While it resembles a portrait, there is slight distortion in its appearance, which is a result of the AI being not quite there when it comes to aesthetics.

"The Discriminator is looking for the features of the image — a face, shoulders — and for now it is more easily fooled than a human eye," Caselles-Dupré added.

It's not the first time AI has been used to create art. Last year, Los Angeles artist Matty Mo used the technology to create portraits of factory workers, art dealers, pilots, artists, and taxi drivers, jobs that he believes will be replaced by machines.

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