Edmond de Belamy
‘Portrait of Edmond de Belamy’, a work created by an algorithm, was sold at Christie’s. Image credit: Obvious.

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The auction house describe the work as the first painting created solely by artificial intelligence to be sold at a major auction.

Created by an algorithm, Portrait of Edmond de Belamy is one of 11 works in a series called ‘La Famille de Belamy’ conceived by the Paris-based AI collective Obvious.

Carrying an estimate of $7000-10,000, it sold after a bidding battle on the phones and via ChristiesLive at $432,500 including premium, on October 25 in New York.

The work measures 23.5in (60cm) square and is printed on canvas. Known as a ‘Generative Adversarial Network’ print, Christie’s described it as “not the product of a human mind”.

Two-part algorithm 

It was created by an algorithm composed of two parts. The first part (the ‘generator’) was fed a data set of 15,000 portraits from Old Masters to Modern paintings and created new images based on this input. The second part (the ‘discriminator’) reviewed all outputs until it deemed the result imperceptible as to whether it was done from a human-hand or not.

While contemporary artists have already been incorporating aspects of artificial intelligence into their work, Christie’s says this offering is different as it is created solely by an algorithm.

The Obvious collective consists of Hugo Caselles-Dupré, Pierre Fautrel and Gauthier Vernier.