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A controversial artwork created by AI has hauled in $435,000 at auction

October 26, 2018

A portrait created using an AI program has fetched $435,000 in auction at Christie’s, blowing the expected price of $7,000 to $10,000 out of the water.

Record-breaking: It’s the first auction for an AI-generated portrait, sold to an anonymous bidder. It signals “the arrival of AI art on the world auction stage,” Christie’s said.

How was it made? The artwork, named Portrait of Edmond Belamy, was created using a type of AI algorithm called a generative adversarial network. GANs are trained to seek patterns in a specific datas et and then create copies. A second “discriminator” network judges the first’s work, sees if it can spot the difference between the originals and the sample, and sends it back. This is repeated until the copies are deemed passable.

Credit where it’s due: The three members of the French art collective behind it, Obvious, have been accused of failing to credit the algorithm’s creator—Robbie Barrat, an artist and programmer who shared his code on GitHub via an open-source license.

Questions: Who should be recognized for the artwork? And more broadly, when an algorithm is used to create a piece of art, who owns it—the person who wrote the algorithm, or the person who put it to that specific purpose? Suffice it to say, there are a lot of things still to be worked out in the world of AI-powered artistry.

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