Lot 109
  • 109

MARIO KLINGEMANN | Memories of Passersby I

30,000 - 40,000 GBP
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  • Memories of Passersby I
  • multiple GANs, two 4k screens, custom handmade chestnut wood console, which hosts AI brain and additional hardware
  • wood console: 70 by 70 by 40 cm. 27 1/2 by 27 1/2 by 15 3/4 in.
  • each screen: 145 by 82.9 by 3.8 cm. 57 by 32 5/8 by 1 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 2018, this work is number 2 from an edition of 3, plus 2 artist's proofs.


Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner


Madrid, Colección Solo, Mario Klingemann. Memories of Passersby I, January - June 2019 (another work from the edition exhibited)


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the tonality of console is much lighter and brighter in the original and fails to fully convey the metallic qualities of the brass grill. The screen frames are dark wood in the original. Condition: This work is in very good and full working order. Very close inspection reveals some very fine and superficial scratches in isolated places to the console and to the extreme edges of the screen's frames.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Memories of Passersby I is a pioneering work of artificial intelligence. Fully autonomous, it uses a complex system of neural networks to generate a never-ending stream of portraits, disquieting visions of male and female faces created by a machine. The artwork is presented as an installation piece: the AI machine is housed in a custom-made chestnut wood cabinet, connected to two framed screens. Unlike earlier generative art installations, Memories of Passersby I does not contain a database. It is an AI brain, developed and trained by Mario Klingemann, which creates brand new portraits, pixel by pixel, in real time. The outputs displayed on screen are not random or programmed combinations of existing images but unique, AI-generated artworks.

The flow of images presented does not follow a predefined choreography but is the result of the AI interpreting its own output; the complex nature of this feedback loop means that no image will ever be repeated. Memories of Passersby I contains all the algorithms and GANs (generative adversarial networks) necessary to produce an endless succession of new images as long as it is running.

In this sense, Memories of Passersby I marks a significant step forward in the rapidly emerging field of AI art. Up until now, collectors have been able to acquire human-curated outputs of neural networks; Memories of Passersby I is a self-contained creative agent. Each edition will generate infinite portraits in its own way and, as such, can be considered unique.

To develop Memories of Passersby I, Klingemann trained his AI model using thousands of portraits from the 17th to 19th centuries. He created a Tinder-like application to accelerate the learning process and teach the machine his own aesthetic preferences, influenced by surrealist figures such as Max Ernst.      

As a result, Memories of Passersby I presents uncanny interpretations of the human face, AI-generated examples of what André Breton referred to as “convulsive beauty.” At times, the images melt into abstract arrangements of pixels as the machine struggles to create a new portrait. For the viewer, Memories of Passersby I is a hypnotic experience, the opportunity to watch an AI brain “think” in real time and view truly unique portraits which are neither recorded nor repeated. 

Mario Klingemann is a pioneer in the field of neural networks, computer learning, and AI art. He has worked with prestigious institutions including The British Library, Cardiff University and New York Public Library, and is Artist in Residence at Google Arts and Culture. His artworks have been exhibited at MoMA New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, the Photographers’s Gallery London, ZKM Karlsruhe and Centre Pompidou Paris. Klingemann received the British Library Labs Artistic Award 2016 and the Lumen Prize Gold Award 2018.