New York (AFP)

The sale of a painting for $ 432,500 took the market by surprise in October 2018. A year later, two new paintings are auctioned in New York, witnessing a growing interest in the alloy art-artificial intelligence.

Sotheby's will put two paintings by the French collective Obvious on November 15, including "La Baronne de Belamy", from the same series as "Portrait of Edmond de Belamy", which reached last year more than sixty times the low estimate at Christie's.

In the style of the classic European portrait for one and the Japanese print for the other, the two paintings were made using generative antagonistic networks (GAN). This technique based on artificial intelligence generates images until the program judges the result sufficiently close to the original style.

The world of art has not yet recovered from the heat stroke of October 2018 and today wonders what prices will sell the "Baroness" and "Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon".

The estimation ranges are modest, between $ 20,000 and $ 30,000 for the first, and between 8,000 and 12,000 for the second.

"We do not expect a score as big as last year, warns Pierre Fautrel, one of the three members of Obvious," just to see if there are people who are ready to buy around these price, if the market will continue to build.

"We're at the beginning," says Max Moore, head of contemporary art sales at Sotheby's in New York. The sale of "Portrait of Edmond de Belamy" showed "that there was a market for this type of work," he says, "but in terms of its depth, it was not really tested. "

Obvious, who is no longer the owner of the two works auctioned at Sotheby's, could have sold all the paintings he has already produced, some put at a price of 100,000 euros, but refused several offers.

"We prefer to sell less expensive by having the chance that the work is exposed and that it can benefit the greatest number, rather than satiate a pleasure only personal," says Pierre Fautrel.

- "Not for everybody" -

In the young category "artificial intelligence", Obvious is not the most popular signature.

According to Steven Sacks, owner of the bitforms gallery in New York, the Canadian-Mexican Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, whom he represents, has already reached $ 600,000 for a work.

Unlike the French collective, most of the works of this artist using artificial intelligence are not fixed and often interact with the visitor.

Other artists, such as the German Mario Klingemann, whose work was sold 40,000 books by Sotheby's in March in London, or Refik Anadol, of Turkish origin, are also sought after and are already exhibiting all over the world.

Steven Sacks and several artists interviewed by AFP had a hard time selling the "Belamy" last year, which they said was a marketing blow.

"The fact that this is what was chosen to represent artificial intelligence (in art) is a problem," says Steven Sacks, pointing out that many artists already produced "AI" works before birth of Obvious, two years ago.

Many also criticize the operation for having given the impression that artificial intelligence could, without human assistance, create a work, with the sole objective of imitating the art produced by humans.

"An artist chooses, he lightenes, he makes it worse." Can a computer do that? "Questions Ronan Barrot, who collaborated with British digital artist Robbie Barrat for a dialogue-like exhibition in Paris," Infinite Skulls ", at the beginning of the year.

The debate is raging, but Obvious claims to see the "AI" as a "tool", not an end in itself. Far from wanting to imitate, the collective explores the "offbeat" aspect, "a little delusional" works, and wants to preserve this "leg of the algorithm", according to Pierre Fautrel.

Everyone agrees, however, to admit that market interest is growing. Steven Sacks acknowledges that the sale of October 2018 "drew attention to this type of work".

"I do not think this style is for everyone," said Max Moore of Sotheby's. "But it's starting to catch the attention of a lot of people who are not necessarily collectors, but are very interested in the technology behind artificial intelligence."

With his paintings, Obvious is part of the tradition of the physical object, to which many traditional collectors are attached. But many "AI" works are virtual and accessible through a screen.

© 2019 AFP