Paint by numbers, sort of

Portrait of Edmond Belamy by an AI programYou probably don’t know Edmond de Belamy, the subject of this portrait. I certainly never heard of him. But he’s in the news because of this very portrait, and Christie’s, which sold the portrait at auction, listed it as follows:

Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy

generative Adversarial Network print, on canvas, 2018, signed with GAN model loss function in ink by the publisher, from a series of eleven unique images, published by Obvious Art, Paris, with original gilded wood frame S. 27½ x 27½ in (700 x 700 mm.)

In other words, this portrait of Belamy was created by an artificial intelligence:

The artwork was produced using an algorithm and a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th Centuries.

To generate the image, the algorithm compared its own work to those in the data set until it could not tell them apart.

The portrait is the first piece of AI art to go under the hammer at a major auction house. The sale attracted a significant amount of media attention.

And a fair chunk of change: Christie’s anticipated $7,000-$10,000; but the hammer came down at $432,500.

6 comments »

  1. Dan T. »

    26 October 2018 · 7:38 pm

    And it didn’t shred itself like Banksy’s?

  2. McGehee »

    26 October 2018 · 8:36 pm

    “All the numbers are either zero or one! How am I supposed to paint this!?”

  3. fillyjonk »

    27 October 2018 · 3:07 pm

    I dunno; it looks a little bit like that “Ecce Homo” restoration that caused so much furor in….Italy, was it?

  4. holly »

    29 October 2018 · 10:30 am

    Isn’t art supposed to be about deep emotional truths? How is AI supposed to accomplish that?

    Then again, this funk-dancin’ robot dog has won me over completely, and I doubt that he actually has the “feel” for it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXwZn_MScZI

  5. nightfly »

    30 October 2018 · 12:25 pm

    To generate the image, the algorithm compared its own work to those in the data set until it could not tell them apart.

    So… basically it was a photocopy?

  6. CGHill »

    30 October 2018 · 6:34 pm

    Or a composite of several photocopies.

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