You may not know Edmond de Belamy, gentleman represented on this painting sold at Christie’s New York. He is not the reason of the price obtained for this painting (432 000 US dollars).
This lord of Belamy was created entirely by the French collective Obvious, thanks to artificial intelligence. The high price was the result of this technique rather than the artistic quality of the work.
More than 15000 portraits were registered by the software, so that it may be able to identify the rules of portrait from 14th century to 20th century. Then, two algorithms intervened, the first one proposing pictures to the second, which role was to determine whether those images came from an algorithm or not. The goal of the first one was then to fool the second. In the end, the collective Obvious succeeded in constituting several portraits of the Belamy imaginary family, all with an important stylization of the face, allowing us to guess the character more than to really see him/her.
The process is not new: a piece of art benefiting from all Rembrandt’s paintings has already been created thanks to AI, but in this particular case the sale and high price obtained at the auction allowed to renew the old debates about author’s rights related to a work created by a machine.
Let’s remind that in French law, a machine, a software or an algorithm may not be granted with author’s rights, having no capacity to be considered as author. This would have no reason to be (how awarding royalties to a software?!) or correspondence with the spirit of the author’s rights laws, which aim is to protect the artist as an individual.