Sotheby’s announced late last week that it too had an entry into the burgeoning market for works of art created by machine learning. During its London Contemporary art day sale on March 6, Sotheby’s will offer a work by Mario Klingemann who is one of the leading artists working with algorithms and machine learning to create imagery. His Memories of Passersby I (£30-40k) endlessly generates new “portraits” based upon its understanding of previous portraiture. Here’s how Sotheby’s describes the work:
Titled Memories of Passersby I, Mario Klingemann’s groundbreaking installation comprises a wooden console table which hosts an AI computer ‘brain’, and two framed screens upon which the machine’s output – disquieting portraits of imagined masculine and feminine faces – blur hypnotically into focus. Differing from the finalised human-curated products of AI which have previously been exhibited or sold at auction, this is the first complete AI model, and only the second ‘AI artwork’, ever to appear on the market.
A remarkable technological feat, the interminable flow of images presented does not follow a predefined choreography, but is instead the result of the AI interpreting its own unique output in real-time; the machine contains all the algorithms that enable it to generate a new and never-repeating combination of portraits for as long as it is running.
Having previously drawn comparisons to Francis Bacon, the conjured faces have been influenced by portraits from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, as well as Klingemann’s own penchant for Surrealist works by figures including Max Ernst. Describing the work, the artist explains:
“Memories of Passersby I houses a very powerful machine which creates paintings while you look at them, which I think is quite magical. Neural networks are involved, and you could say that they are the brushes that I’ve learned to use. The machine is in a cycle where it continuously creates new faces that start changing and fading away – it observes itself and creates a feedback loop. Of course, it’s hard for me let it out into the world without me by its side, but I trust that it’s ready to keep creating new portraits forever, as I always hoped it would do. I hope that when people sit and watch these fleeting faces pass by, they will get the same feeling I do”.
Marina Ruiz Colomer, Contemporary Art Specialist and Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction, says:
“In seeking to subvert more traditional processes of creation, Klingemann’s work presents a truly amazing opportunity to watch an AI brain think in real time, as the machine creates brand new portraits pixel by pixel. To offer a cutting edge piece of technology such as this, which has the power to generate haunting portraits reminiscent of past Masters, is truly unprecedented. It is the nature of Contemporary Art to push boundaries – boundaries which have been, and will continue to be, redefined for centuries. AI art is the latest innovation winning its place in art history books, and Klingemann’s work stands on the precipice of an exciting new era in our field.”