Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Art meets AI: Computer-generated works up for New York City auction

Art meets AI: Computer-generated works up for New York City auction

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sotheby’s will put Le Baron De Belamy (left) and Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon up for sale on Thursday. The paintings by the French art collective Obvious were made using a technique called ‘generative adversarial network’, or GAN. THOMAS URBAIN/afp

Art meets AI: Computer-generated works up for New York City auction

Two paintings up for auction in New York highlight a growing interest in artificial intelligence- (AI-) created works – a technique that could transform how art is made and viewed but is also stirring up passionate debate.

The art world was stunned last year when an AI painting sold for $432,500, and auctioneers are keen to further test demand for computer-generated works.

“Art is a true reflection of what our society, what our environment responds to,” said Max Moore of Sotheby’s.

“And so it’s just a natural continuation of the progression of art,” he added.

Sotheby’s will put two paintings by the French art collective Obvious up for sale on Thursday, including Le Baron De Belamy.

The European classic style portrait is part of the same series as Portrait of Edmond Belamy, which sold for more than 60 times the lowest estimate at Christie’s during the 2018 fall auctions.

The paintings were made using a technique called “generative adversarial network”, or GAN.

GAN involves feeding thousands of images of the same style into a computer until the machine concludes that it has created a new portrait that it thinks accurately reflects that style.

Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon was created in a Japanese style using the same GAN algorithm.

Auctioneers have put modest prices on the two paintings. Katsuwaka has a pre-sale estimate between $8,000 and $12,000, while Le Baron has been priced between $20,000 and $30,000.

“We do not expect as big a result as last year,” said Pierre Fautrel, one of the three members of Obvious.

“We just want to see if there are people who are ready to buy around these prices and if the market will continue to build,” he added.

Moore said the sale of Portrait of Edmond Belamy showed that there is “a marketplace for this new body of work” but that it’s still “in the very early stages”.

“That will be a good indicator of where the market is,” he said.

Not for everyone

In the fledgling AI market, Obvious is not the most sought-after group of artists.

Steven Sacks, owner of the bitforms gallery in New York says his client, the Canadian-Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has already made around $600,000 for an AI artwork.

Whereas Obvious’s paintings are fixed, most of Lozano-Hemmer’s works use software to change in real time according to data about each viewer’s perspective.

Other prominent AI artists who are exhibiting their work across the world include Germany’s Mario Klingemann and Turkish-born Refik Anadol.

Klingemann also makes portraits, sometimes tweaking the input data with voluntary glitches to avoid replication. Anadol uses mostly video to produce abstract data-based animations.

Klingemann’s Memories of Passersby I, a stream of portraits created by a machine, sold for $40,000 at Sotheby’s in London in March.

Sacks and several other artists AFP spoke to were critical of the Bellamy sale last year.

They feel that that painting is not representative of the potential of AI and argue that Obvious is imitating other works whereas they are creating something new.

“For me it was a problem because it wasn’t authentic,” said Sacks, who subscribes to a school of thought that works made by AI should constantly be changing, usually on screens.

Some also criticise Obvious for giving the impression that AI can create works of art without human interference.

“An artist chooses. He lightens, he reinforces. Can a computer do that?” asks French painter Ronan Barrot, who has collaborated with British AI artist Robbie Barrat.

The debate continues to rage. Fautrel of Obvious denies that his collective merely imitates other artworks and sees AI as a “tool” and not an end in itself.

Despite their differences, they all agree the market for AI paintings is growing and that the sale of Bellamy has drawn attention to the burgeoning technique.

“I don’t think this new style is for everyone but I think you’re going to start catching the attention of a lot of people that aren’t necessarily art collectors but are very interested in the technology behind AI,” said Sotheby’s Moore.

MOST VIEWED

  • Archaeologists find ancient remnant

    A team from the Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a gatekeeper statue’s foot fragment at the Tonle Snguot Temple, within a metre of the toe of a statue found in 2017. ANA spokesman Long Kosal told The Post on Wednesday that the fragment was

  • Hun Sen to the rescue

    Cambodia has won praise for allowing passengers of the MS Westerdam cruise ship to dock at Preah Sihanouk port, thanks to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s humanitarian act. In a message via Twitter on Wednesday, the director-general of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu

  • EU partially withdraws EBA

    The EU Commission on Wednesday announced the partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, citing a serious and systematic violation by Cambodia of principles in the four core human and labour rights. The suspension affects one-fifth or €1 billion ($1.08 billion) of Cambodia’s annual

  • PM orders immediate action against ‘sexy’ live streamers

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered immediate action against women who live stream their sales pitches on Facebook wearing revealing clothing. The prime minister said the practice erodes traditional Cambodian values and disgraces women. Hun Sen gave the order to officials attending the Cambodian

  • Trump tweets praise for Kingdom docking ship

    Cambodia continues to earn praise for its humanitarian act of allowing the MS Westerdam cruise ship with more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board to dock at the Preah Sihanouk port. The praise this time comes from none other than US President Donald Trump. “Thank

  • Japan calls for policy changes

    Representatives of Japanese companies and investors on Wednesday submitted a list of policy recommendations to the government concerning 21 challenges to the Kingdom’s business climate. Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami and leaders of the Japanese Business Association in Cambodia (JBAC), Japan International Cooperation Agency