What’s happened?

Iconic British auction house Christie’s has become the first of its kind to sell a piece of “computer-generated” art. The art-work, titled “Portrait of Edmond Belamy,” sold for the not-so-meagre sum of $432,500USD.

Generated via a computer algorithm, as programmed by the French art collective named “Obvious”, the algorithm was designed to learn from a library of other artworks, particularly historical portraits. The three Obvious researchers working on the project (Hugo Caselles-Dupré, Pierre Fautrel, and Gauthier Vernier) used Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), a type of AI, in order to comb through 15,000 data points from artworks created between the 14th and 20th century. Similarly, IBM has used this type of AI to help create perfume in collaboration with fragrance manufacturer Symrise.

The Media Store Take

While the sale of “Portrait of Edmond Belamy” is embroiled in a grey-area discussion around “what constitutes art?” – It is also a demonstration of the steady movement media (even in very traditional formats) is taking towards automation. AI and deep learning algorithms have been a part of media channels and platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and Google, for some time. However, the sale of an AI generated art-work is a new step that will expand and promote discussion around the way we see this emerging technology.

As programmatic trading is becoming a tried-and-tested method for media buying, this AI generated creative could have implications on content and creative solutions. Using the unique abilities of AI to learn from creative libraries and start to have a more pronounced impact on the overall media landscape. Albeit much further in the future.

Peter Quattrocelli