Barrat, when asked about the sale, said his main hope is that “the high price will set a good precedent for other AI art being sold in the future, and that despite the portrait Christie’s chose to auction being very shallow, people will see it and attention will be drawn to actual legitimate artists working with AI—like Mario Klingemann, Helena Sarin, Tom White, to name a few.”
Indeed, I believe this is the hope of the entire AI artist community.
Apart from some of the works by early pioneers like Harold Cohen, AI art has historically not been warmly welcomed by galleries. Until recently, it was almost nonexistent in the primary art market. That may be starting to change. Recently, Nature Morte
gallery in New Delhi held an exhibition of AI art entitled “Gradient Descent,” which featured work by Anna Ridler, Mario Klingemann, Tom White, Harshit Agrawal, Jake Elwes, Memo Akten, and Nao Tokui. At the SCOPE Miami Beach art fair in December, AICAN art
—AI art originally produced
by the Art & AI Lab at Rutgers—will be exhibited with no human artist’s name attached. Now that Christie’s has given its imprimatur, will the primary art market be ready to embrace and exhibit the new wave of AI art?
Despite some signs of warming, actual AI sales in the art market have been limited to date. In San Francisco in 2016, 29 artworks by a machine intelligence team at Google were sold in an auction for a total of $98,000
, with Turkish artist Memo Akten’s work grabbing the highest price of $8,000. In 2017, AICAN art was sold for $16,000
in a benefit auction in New York. The Nature Morte exhibition in New Delhi displayed the art with price tags ranging from $500 to $40,000
Now, with an AI a piece sold for $350,000, all bets are off. Who bought it? Why? Do they want another one? Will the publicity from this sale bring more attention to the artists already working in this field? Or will the unsolved issues of attribution and copyrights hunt the field and scare buyers away? Will that high price encourage small galleries to embrace AI art to the point that it becomes a trend, only to die away fast? It is always dangerous for an artist—or art form—to have such a huge spike in price, specially it happened in the secondary market before it even hits the primary market. It remains unpredictable, therefore, how Belamy’s triumph at Christie’s will ultimately swing the AI art market.