This AI-generated portrait just sold at auction for $432K, but not without controversy


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/10/26/this-ai-generated-portrait-jus.html


#2

I absolutely love this. They downloaded some code from github, made some superficial tweaks, ran off some inket printouts and made half a million dollars.

They had an A+ gameplan to sell this as fine art (the same familiarity with the high rollers’ blind spots that forgers depend on, but with a far more intimate understanding of the art market’s philosophical vanities) and half of it was “put it in a gold frame.”


#3

Yes, but how much will it be worth once it has been shredded?


#4

Also, contrary to a couple of news stories, the person who actually made this software is not happy about the plagiarism.

To a significant segment of art critics and buyers, “context-shifting of appropriated media” is the essential feature of the art, and the fact that this media flows from code makes this work interesting. This is why efforts to spike this auction by pointing out the code was purloined dramatically enhanced the work’s value. It focused attention away from the code and toward a narrative of recontextualization that is, in the art world, one of Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Works. It’s true that the inkjetteurs posed it with an AI-as-artist narrative which isn’t quite so attractive as the one that ultimately formed around the painting. The death of the artist is recursive.


#5

This adds extra value, as far as I am concerned.

Can someone please give a heads up to Kirby Ferguson?


#6

Welll Christie’s might have a little say about that part…


#7

The art world has never really recovered from Duchamp. Maybe there are instances where “context shifting” constitutes art; I don’t think this is one of them. This is just lazy.


#8

If only they had also stolen the clock cycles from people.


#9

Good AI artists copy; great AI artists steal.


#10

“Mostly the work of” may also be a bit of a stretch. The code is on github:

And Barrat himself says:

Modified version of Soumith Chintala’s torch implementation of DCGAN with a focus on generating artworks.

My brief look at it seems to indicate that, aside from some scripts which scape wikipedia for training artwork, the definitions of the network, etc are all listed essentially verbatim from:

So it is 2nd level plagiarism? Maybe? Do we care about the code or the trained weights? Does plagiarism even have meaning here?


#11

This article made me think of the Jospeh Cornell inspired boxes made by the AI in Gibson’s Count Zero.


#12

There is too much to talk about this: the museum still has the power to define art; how does a camera compare to an algorithm? Painting by hand is to some extent procedural, like an algorithm. All art is rule-based. The art is the process: conceptual art. The art world itself is an algorithm. The role of art history in the work, and in terms of providing a foundation for art to be meaningful/valuable

And then there’s the idiot Art Market, like a troll, that should be ignored – but that’s impossible because of the money. I don’t doubt that there are people making code art that does something artful and unique. I imagine this code art will be more legitimately ‘art’ than the simulations of human art AI spits out. This programmed art enters the museum by ‘looking like art’ in a very flagrant way. Why not generate performance art? :wink: Random noise can become art, but someone has to be there to hear it and champion it as art.


#13

Pfft. My five-year-old computer could do this, and it’s fully depreciated.


#14

Since the main purpose of the Art market is to provide investment vehicles (as far as I can tell), one interesting question is how will the value of this hold up? I would think not well, because there’s not much historical or unique about it, and it’s not significantly different from millions of similar examples that are trivial to generate. Of course, as with all the investment art, the rhetorical frame around it is critical to its value, so if that’s done well, the sky could be the limit.


#15

It’s got the provenance of being the first AI generated work to come up for auction. That’s more than enough to make it a unique piece.


#16

Damn, I used to paint as a hobby and I now see I have thrown away billions worth of canvases:

Rothko painting sold for $46.5 million.

I am starting to think all of life is one giant conspiracy to laugh at my poverty when you see people who can throw away almost 47 million on THAT!


#17

TFW you steal something you don’t understand and have to go back to the victim for tech support. /s


#18

For a discussion on this BBS, the word “stealing” pops up a little too much to my taste.

If you have a public gist and people use it without attributing you, this isn’t stealing in my book.


#19

The stealing part is when I change a few words, claim authorship, and turn around to sell it for a fortune to gullible marks.


#20

My problem with this is that they did the equivalent of sticking a picture in photo-editing software, applied an “impressionist” filter and sold it to people apparently unaware that there were actual digital artists working in, shall we say, more sophisticated ways.

Yeah, it’s not so much a provocation like Duchamp’s Baroness Elsa von Freytag- Loringhoven’s “Fountain,” but a more cynical cash-grab that ignores the actual interesting stuff going on (that does grapple with the issues).