Most expensive AI-generated artwork sold at auction
Obvious Art
432,000 US dollar(s)
United States (New York)

The highest price paid at auction for an artwork created using artificial intelligence (AI) is $432,000 (£334,144), paid for a "painting" called Portrait of Edmond de Belamy on 25 October 2018. The portrait (of an imaginary person) was created by a type of AI called a Generative Adversarial Network, which was set up by members of the French art collective Obvious Art.

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) work by pitting two neural networks against each other to develop new images based on a library of existing images (in this case a dataset of 15,000 portraits painted by artists between the 14th and 20th centuries).

In the Obvious Art collective's GAN algorithm, which was based on the work of open-source AI programmer Robbie Barrat (USA), one network (the generator) was tasked with iteratively generating images based on the pre-existing data set, while the other (the discriminator) was tasked with identifying the generator's work. The process concludes when the generator can create images that the discriminator cannot distinguish from the paintings in the original dataset. The striking end result vastly exceeded its auction house estimate of $7,000–$10,000.

The applications of GAN are many and various, but it is the intriguing way in which the AIs in the GAN build up an independent understanding of the world they see through pictures; this is truly independent from the 'taught' perception of machine vision we have today and will benefit the likes of automated vehicles in the future.