AI-Driven Generative Art For Video Walls Generates $5M At Sotheby’s NFT Auction

October 4, 2021 by Dave Haynes

Let me immediately get out of the way the reality that I know very close to zippo about cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens, aka NFTs. I take considerable comfort in how some very smart people who I follow on tech podcasts and in publications also say they can’t quite wrap their heads around it all, and certainly cannot explain it.

All I know is that it is a thing, and that some people are either super-smart or driven by herd behavior to throw a lot of money at these currencies, and at things like digital art. Making it even more hard to grasp is the fickle nature of art investment – in that what might make one person shrug might make someone else eager to buy for big money.

I note this because arguably the best known name in generative art – the digital medium that populates a whole bunch of big LED video walls in corporate and public spaces – just made a whole pile of money selling NFTs for some of his video wall pieces. By my count, the NFT auction of eight AI-driven video pieces by Refik Anadol, sold by the Hong Kong wing of Sotheby’s, generated sales of $39 million Hong Kong Dollars, or about $5 million USD.

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Says a description of the auction:

The scope of this collection is truly ambitious in the constantly evolving world of digital art, and marks the latest creations from Refik’s on-going Machine Hallucinations series which began in 2016. Lot 1, Machine Hallucinations – Space is a fully immersive digital artwork experience that intertwines the past and future of space exploration and marks the first time a work of this kind is offered at auction. Moreover, Lots 2-4 consist of three AI generative data paintings – works of art that never repeat themselves as the algorithms continuously dream about the universe. Lots 5-7 are a collection of three AI data paintings drawing from datasets of millions of photographs captured by ISS, MRO and Hubble telescopes, respectively. Finally, Lot 8 is a 3D and robotic CNC-milled AI data sculpture capturing the hidden mysteries of Mars’ surface through generative projection-mapping.

I did a podcast with Anadol about three years ago:

Kind of amazing that this sort of money can be made, and good for him. I am guessing some other creators out there who are also playing with visualized data and generative art for big video walls would have raised eyebrows from this news, and be having a serious “Hmmmmm …” moment about what they might do with the works they’ve produced and the generative scripts they’ve written.

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