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Pierre Fautrel
What does art mean in the digital age?

Monet, Van Gogh, Richter – art is invariably associated with its creators. How does this relationship change when algorithms become creative? About the new role of artists.

Artificial intelligence is omnipresent, even in art. But when algorithms start creating art, that shakes up our assumptions about art and human genius. A Paris-based artist collective called Obvious are producing AI art… that sells for colossal sums! They fed a computer with a data set of 15,000 portraits from the 14th century to the present and let two algorithms work against each other: the first algorithm, called the Generator, generates images based on the portraits, while the second, called the Discriminator, rejects the results whenever they still look like machine-made art. Gradually, this “generative adversarial network” gives rise to prints which, at least at first glance, look like "real" paintings – and are now highly coveted by collectors. Christie's recently auctioned off Portrait of Edmond de Belamy, the first such AI painting to go under the hammer, for a whopping $432,500. And the signature on the painting? The algorithmic equation, of course: min G max D Ex[log(D(x))]+Ez[log(1-D(G(z)))]

Do we really still need "real-life" artists if, in the wake of the digital revolution, AI is capable of producing more or less convincing artworks and actually assessing and fine-tuning its own productions {ich hab’s ein bißchen auf Englisch geändert, stimmt’s so?}? Pierre Fautrel, a co-founder of Obvious, takes a different angle on the matter: an algorithm itself cannot be creative, but it can help artists be more creative.