STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Can artificial intelligence produce a masterpiece?

Obvious, a French collective, is using artificial intelligence to create stunning works of art that seem man-made.

Posted: Oct 26, 2018 10:30 AM
Updated: Oct 26, 2018 10:30 AM

"Edmond de Belamy" has made history as the first work of art produced by artificial intelligence to be sold at auction.

The slightly blurry canvas print, which has been likened to works by the Old Masters, sold Thursday for $432,500 -- dramatically exceeding its original estimate of $7,000-$10,000 -- at a Christie's auction in New York.

"Christie's continually stays attuned to changes in the art market and how technology can impact the creation and consumption of art," Richard Lloyd, international head of prints and multiples at Christie's, said in a statement before the auction.

"AI has already been incorporated as a tool by contemporary artists and as this technology further develops, we are excited to participate in these continued conversations. To best engage in the dialogue, we are offering a public platform to exhibit an artwork that has entirely been realized by an algorithm."

While the print is signed "min G max D x [log (D(x))] + z [log(1 -- D (G(z)))]" after a section of the algorithm's code, it was conceived by Obvious, a Paris-based trio fascinated by the artistic potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Though none come from an art background, friends Pierre Fautrel, Hugo Caselles-Dupré and Gauthier Vernier first started experimenting with art and machine learning last year.

"We saw algorithms were capable of creating new images, and we were astonished by the potential they had," Vernier said.

To produce "Edmond de Belamy" and the 10 other portraits in the "La Famille de Belamy" series, Obvious fed a two-part algorithm 15,000 images of portraits from different time periods. After reviewing these submissions, the first part of the algorithm began generating its own portraits, trying to create original works that could pass as man-made.

"All the data has similarities, so common features. So, first algorithm creates new examples of those images and tries to fool the second algorithm into thinking that those pictures created are, actually, real portraits, so human-made," Vernier said.

"We're looking at these portraits the same way a painter would do it. Like walking in a gallery, taking some inspiration. Except that we feed this inspiration to the algorithm, and the algorithm is the part that does the visual creation."

While inventive, this approach hasn't been without critics. Many working in the field of art and artificial intelligence criticized or dismissed Obvious' inclusion in the Christie's sale since the type of algorithm used -- generative adversarial networks, or GANs -- have been used by artists for years.

Speaking to The New York Times ahead of the auction, Mario Klingemann, an artist known for his work with machine learning, likened "Edmond de Belamy" to "a connect-the-dots children's painting."

But in light of the auction result, it's likely Obvious will remain undaunted by naysayers. Their work has raised interesting points around the nature of human creation -- and clearly caught the attention of the world's collectors.

"I think (artificial intelligence) has its place in the art world because it tries to replicate what any artist would do, like trying to create from what he knows," Vernier said. "It forces you to try to understand your own creativity and how you would be able to replicate it."

Watch the video above to find out more about Obvious and how technology informs the trio's practice.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31257

Reported Deaths: 1114
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds253640
DeSoto162016
Madison131434
Jones112849
Neshoba99271
Rankin95112
Harrison93311
Lauderdale91079
Forrest87842
Scott77315
Jackson63816
Copiah60715
Washington5919
Leake57819
Holmes55741
Lee55219
Wayne54513
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51618
Yazoo5136
Lowndes49413
Leflore49151
Grenada4905
Lincoln46634
Lamar4657
Pike44112
Monroe40330
Sunflower4008
Lafayette3934
Attala36123
Covington3595
Panola3526
Bolivar34014
Newton3399
Simpson3233
Adams31318
Pontotoc2926
Tate28810
Marion28411
Chickasaw27918
Claiborne27910
Noxubee2678
Winston2666
Jasper2636
Pearl River25732
Clay25111
Marshall2343
Smith21811
Union2109
Clarke20724
Walthall2045
Coahoma2016
Kemper17914
Lawrence1782
Yalobusha1737
Carroll16611
Humphreys1509
Tallahatchie1374
Itawamba1368
Montgomery1352
Calhoun1324
Tippah13111
Hancock13013
Webster12710
Jefferson Davis1124
Jefferson1083
Prentiss1083
Greene1058
Tunica1053
Wilkinson949
Amite912
George893
Tishomingo831
Quitman780
Choctaw744
Alcorn712
Perry674
Stone651
Franklin452
Benton380
Sharkey380
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 44375

Reported Deaths: 984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5410152
Montgomery4158103
Mobile4129134
Tuscaloosa232142
Marshall172410
Madison14917
Lee141137
Shelby133423
Morgan11215
Walker97824
Elmore94314
Franklin89814
Baldwin8949
Dallas8919
Etowah75013
DeKalb7375
Chambers64227
Butler63428
Autauga61012
Tallapoosa60569
Russell5650
Houston5074
Unassigned50323
Limestone5010
Lauderdale4966
Lowndes47221
Cullman4594
Pike4375
Colbert4086
St. Clair4022
Escambia3966
Coffee3812
Calhoun3765
Covington3707
Bullock36910
Barbour3532
Talladega3177
Hale31421
Marengo31211
Dale2990
Wilcox2948
Sumter28512
Jackson2842
Clarke2776
Winston2633
Chilton2522
Blount2431
Monroe2392
Pickens2366
Marion23313
Conecuh2107
Randolph2099
Macon1999
Choctaw19512
Bibb1941
Greene1868
Perry1791
Henry1363
Crenshaw1253
Washington1117
Lawrence1100
Cherokee1027
Geneva830
Lamar781
Fayette711
Clay692
Coosa591
Cleburne381
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 78°
Columbus
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 73°
Oxford
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 72°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather