After one AI-created artwork sold well above the original estimation at auction, the art world believed that this “children’s painting” was nothing more than a blatant rip-off.
As you read this, spending the last of this month’s disposable income on today’s breakfast, know that you should have saved it. Saved it, because one day, you might be able to buy a painting made by the electronic hands of a computer. Recently, the Portrait of Edmond De Belamy went under the hammer, and the stuffed shirts of the art world entirely lost all of the plot. “You can’t be serious,” German artist Mario Klingemann told the New York Times, comparing the portrait “to a connect-the-dots children’s painting.”
As it turns out, the auction house was quite serious. But not nearly as serious as the cash-heavy nonce that paid well over the estimation to bag it. According to Christie’s, the work was expected to sell at around $10k, which was pitched alongside an etching by Pablo Picasso, and a Chuck Close self-portrait. You know, legitimate art.
As the Times reports, the work depicting the fictional “Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy” sold for $432,500.
This. This sold for $432,500.
My AI kid could do that. https://t.co/PXVEylAQdF
— Mark Athitakis (@mathitak) October 25, 2018
I mean, art makes no sense. Well, it does, but the amount of money that is spent to allow no-one else to see it, is nonsensical.
There is still hope that Banksy bought it with the proceeds from his last sale to use it for shredder practice.
— Mario Klingemann (@quasimondo) October 25, 2018
However, one artist believes that the AI in question cribbed from his pallete, with Robbie Barrat aka @DrBeef_, claiming:
left: the “AI generated” portrait Christie’s is auctioning off right now
right: outputs from a neural network I trained and put online *over a year ago*.
Does anyone else care about this? Am I crazy for thinking that they really just used my network and are selling the results? pic.twitter.com/wAdSOe7gwz
— Robbie Barrat (@DrBeef_) October 25, 2018
According to an article by The Verge, Barrat is the original author, with the piece in question stating:
The print was created by Obvious, a trio of 25-year-old French students whose goal is to “explain and democratize(sic)” AI through art. Over the past year, they’ve made a series of portraits depicting members of the fictional Belamy family, amplifying their work through attention-grabbing press releases. But insiders say the code used to generate these prints is mostly the work of another artist and programmer: 19-year-old Robbie Barrat, a recent high school graduate who shared his algorithms online via an open-source license.
To be perfectly frank, the AI work of Barrat looks eerily similar to his already established work.
The AI art community has piled on Obvious, believing that any changes they made must be minute. Mario Klingemann, a German artist who has won awards for his own work with this form, tells The Verge over email, “You could argue that probably 90 per cent of the actual ‘work’ was done by .”
It seems unlikely that any of the proceeds of the sale will find the pockets of Mr Barrat, but one thing is for certain, computers have learned the subtle art of artistic plagiarism. Be afraid.