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Obvious Art, “Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon” (2018)
Obvious Art, “Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon” (2018)

AI-generated artworks are disappointing at auction

Maybe the novelty has worn off

Back in October 2018, an AI-created artwork sold at Christie’s for more than most human artists do: $432,500, to be exact, which was over 40 times its high estimate. However, sales since then have been disappointing (or encouraging, if you’re opposed to ushering in a new race of highly-intelligent, partly-robotic artists).

In fact, Obvious Art – the collective behind last year’s record-breaking “Edmond De Belamy” – felt the effect of the decline in interest on Friday, after causing much less of a stir at Sotheby’s.

While the two Obvious works included in the sale hit their estimates (just about, in one case), they definitely didn’t impress bidders like their predecessor. Respectively, they went for $13,000 and $20,000, over 20 times less.

This is despite the fact the artworks have been created using a very similar technique. “La Baronne De Belamy” (2018) depicts a member of the same virtual family as Edmond, generated from a data set of 15,000 portraits from the 14th to the 20th centuries.

“Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon” (2018), on the other hand, comes from the “Electric Dreams” series, which is generated from Japanese Ukiyo-e prints from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Like the Belamy portraits, this work comes from a Generative Adversarial Network, but is printed on washi paper in the typical Ukiyo-e style.

So why has interest cooled off so much since the initial sale of Obvious’s AI-created artwork? Well, there’s the draw of owning the first example, which obviously can’t be repeated. Or maybe the novelty’s just worn off.

Either way, it looks like the AI-driven aesthetic apocalypse isn’t upon us just yet.