The artist as an algorithm: robot-made
Rembrandt for sale
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[September 22, 2018]
By Michaela Cabrera
PARIS (Reuters) - Robots can do many of the
jobs previously performed by humans, but could they ever replace
A team of French entrepreneurs who believe so have written a computer
algorithm that can create original paintings with some resemblance to
works by Old Masters such as Rembrandt.
The pictures of an imagined "Baron of Belamy" and his aristocratic
relations have a smudgy, blurred finish that would not have impressed
Rembrandt's clients, but are good enough for the auction house
Christie's to put one of them on sale in New York in October with a
price estimate of $7,000 to $10,000.
"We are artists with a different type of paintbrush. Our paintbrush is
an algorithm developed on a computer,” said Hugo Caselles-Dupre, a
computer engineer who founded the group with childhood friends Gauthier
Vernier and Pierre Fautrel, who both have a business background.
The artworks are created by the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), an
algorithm that learns to generate new images by being fed a database of
existing paintings - 15,000 portraits in the case of the "Belamy"
"The visual is not the only thing that comprises the final portrait,"
"All of the message, and the artistic process to get to the visual, are
also important, even more than the final product," he said, admitting
that GAN's pictures -- printed onto canvas and then framed -- are fuzzy.
"The fact that it’s not yet perfect, I think is logical because it’s a
technology that is still very new, and to have very good results, we
need significant calculating power, that for now we don’t have in this
[to top of second column]
Pierre Fautrel, of the team of French entrepreneurs called Obvious,
poses in front of the artwork "La Comtesse de Belamy" (2018),
created by the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), an algorithm
that learns to generate new images by being fed a database of
existing paintings, during an interview with Reuters in Paris,
France, September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
The trio sold "The Count of Belamy" for around $10,000 to
Paris-based collector Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre.
"What was astonishing was that they knew nothing about art, nothing
at all," Laugero-Lasserre said.
"In the beginning, I took them for crazy people. And finally, are
they crazy, are they genius? We’ll see,”
Some artists are unconvinced that a machine can make real art.
"If there was no anger from Picasso, 'Guernica' would never have
existed. If Modigliani were not in love with his models, his nudes
would be dull and uninteresting," said painter Robert Prestigiacomo.
"There's always a feeling behind a painting, always – whether it's
anger, yearning, desire. And artificial intelligence is – well, you
have the word 'artificial' in it - there you have it!"
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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