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A Portrait Created Solely by AI Will be Offered by Christie’s. Sacred and Profane- A Tale of Two Pictures.

August 22, 2018 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 6.55.31 PM

Portrait of Edmond de Belamy (Detail)

Fine Art in the New Media

This blog reports on the subject of Fine Art in the New Media. The portrait above “Portrait of Edmond de Belamy” was created by AI, praised, and will be offered by Christie’s. The portrait below, “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the Man”) was ridiculed throughout the world. A comparison is shown below. Our comment is at the end of this Post.


In October, Christie’s will become the first major auction house to offer a work of art created by an algorithm.

“The portrait  of Edmond de Belmy depicts a gentleman, possibly French and — to judge by his dark frock coat and plain white collar — a man of the church. The work appears unfinished: the facial features are somewhat indistinct and there are blank areas of canvas. The portrait, however, is not the product of a human mind.” Art Daily.

The Significance

“Richard Lloyd, International Head of Prints & Multiples, [at Christie’s] comments: “Christie’s continually stays attuned to changes in the art market and how technology can impact the creation and consumption of art. AI has already been incorporated as a tool by contemporary artists…. we are offering a public platform to exhibit an artwork that has entirely been realized by an algorithm.” Art Daily.

AI: The Creative Process

Hugo Caselles-Dupré, representative of Obvious, [Studio] describes the process: “This new technology allows us to experiment on the notion of creativity for a machine, and the parallel with the role of the artist in the creation process. The approach invites the observer to consider and evaluate the similarities and distinctions between the mechanics within the human brain, such as the creative process, and the ones of an algorithm. ” *


“Ecce Homo” (“Behold the Man”) (Detail)


“Ecce Homo” (“Behold the Man”)

“In 2012, an 83  year old woman Cecilia Giménez, amateur painter tried to restore an old fresco in her local church (Borja), but failed utterly.” The painting, called “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the Man”) was ridiculed throughout the world. 42spain.com.

The Process

“The result was a botched repair where the intricate brush strokes of Martinez {the original artist]  were replaced with a haphazard splattering of the octogenarian’s paint. Years of carefully calculated depth of expression simply washed out by copious amounts of red and brown.” telegraph.co.uk.

The Significance

“News of the pensioner’s improvised restoration started spreading like wildfire across Spain and as soon as the international press and social media platforms got hold of the story, Gimenez’s “monkey Jesus” became a global phenomenon.”

“France’s Le Monde newspaper ran the story with the title ‘HOLY SHIT – the restoration of a painting of Christ turns into a massacre’ and The Daily Telegraph with ‘Elderly woman destroys 19th-century fresco with DIY restoration’.”

“Faced with a barrage of international media attention, Spanish newspapers reported that Cecilia Gimenez suffered an anxiety attack. I couldn’t understand why everyone was talking about me,” she later told Spanish daily ABC. “All I wanted to do was save the fresco.” thelocal.es.”

Side by Side Comparison

“No comment.” whitherthebook.


*Further to the AI Process

“Created by an algorithm composed of two parts, The Generator and the Discriminator, the system was fed a data set of 15,000 portraits. The Generator made new images based on the set and the Discriminator reviewed all outputs until it deemed the result imperceptible whether done from a human-hand or attributed to the algorithm. The work included in the October sale is Edmond de Belamy, the ‘youngest’ documented member of the family or the ‘newest’ born creation of the algorithm.”

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