When Christie’s announced the auction of Portrait of Edmond De Belamy, an AI-generated portrait by the Paris collective Obvious, even those in the insular world AI art were less than impressed. “You can’t be serious,” German artist Mario Klingemann told the New York Times, comparing the portrait “to a connect-the-dots children’s painting.”
But Christie’s was serious—and so, it turns out, was a buyer with deep, deep pockets.
The work was expected to sell for between $7,000 and $10,000, putting it in line with other works due to go under the hammer at the same time, including a small etching by Pablo Picasso and a Chuck Close self-portrait (both part of a limited run of prints). In fact, the auction house’s estimate was way off. As the Times reports, the work depicting the fictional “Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy” sold today (Oct. 25) for $432,500—more than 40 times the initial estimate—to an anonymous phone bidder.
Members of Obvious will doubtlessly be rubbing their hands with glee. Not everyone was quite so delighted.