A man won an art competition in Colorado using AI-generated art, prompting a debate over what art is

  • A man used an artificial intelligence program to make art that won a contest for digital art.
  • The program called Midjourney generates graphics using a series of text submitted by a user.
  • After posting about the win on Discord, the post was shared on Twitter where users debated about it.

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After posting on online about his win at a state fair’s art contest using AI-generated art, a man is facing backlash about the victory.

Artist Jason Allen used an artificial intelligence program called Midjourney to make the winning art piece called “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” that won first place for digital art in the Colorado State Fair’s fine arts competition.

Midjourney generates graphics from words in a text box. In a Discord post that was shared on Twitter, Allen, under the username Sincarnate, wrote about making the image using Midjourney and winning first place in digital arts category at the state fair’s fine arts competition.

—Genel Jumalon ✈️ Nan Desu Kan (@GenelJumalon) August 30, 2022

“I have been exploring a special prompt that I will be publishing at a later date, I have created 100s of images using it, and after many weeks of fine tuning and curating my gens, I chose my top 3 and had them printed on canvas after upscaling with Gigapixel A.I.,” the post said.

Allen did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment ahead of publication.

In the tweet sharing the post, Genel Jumalon wrote, “TL;DR — Someone entered an art competition with an AI-generated piece and won the first prize. Yeah that’s pretty fucking shitty.”

Other Twitter users joined a debate about whether or not the art was cheating, and what AI will do to creative jobs.

“We’re watching the death of artistry unfold right before our eyes — if creative jobs aren’t safe from machines, then even high-skilled jobs are in danger of becoming obselete,” Twitter user OmniMorpho wrote.

—OmniMorpho (@OmniMorpho) August 31, 2022

Another Twitter user, Sanguiphilia, tweeted, “This is so gross. I can see how ai art can be beneficial, but claiming you’re an artist by generating one? Absolutely not. I can see lots of kids cheating their way through assignments with this.”

—Sanguiphilia 🩸 (@Sanguiphilia) August 30, 2022

“I’m not going to apologize for it,” Allen told The New York Times. “I won, and I didn’t break any rules.”

Allen told the newspaper that he was transparent about the art being made using an AI program. He said he submitted the art with “Jason M. Allen via Midjourney” as the artist. Olga Robak, director of communications at the Colorado Department of Agriculture that oversees the fair, said Allen didn’t break any rules of the competition, according to The Pueblo Chieftain.

According to 9News, NBC’s affiliate in Denver, Colorado, the art competition’s judges didn’t know his art was created with AI.

“This is the first time I’ve ever entered into a contest, and I won,” Allen told the station. “I think it really speaks to the power of AI, and a lot of people got upset by that, unfortunately.”

He told 9News that he made 900 iterations of the art before the piece he eventually submitted, edited it on Photoshop, and spent 80 hours on the art.

“The AI is a tool like a paintbrush is a tool, and there is a creative force and mind behind it,” Allen told 9News. “There is an imagination and author behind the prompts.”

AI art is not new, and is getting more advanced with the release of programs like Midjourney and DALL-E 2.

“This isn’t going to stop,” Allen told the Times about backlash to AI art. “Art is dead, dude. It’s over. A.I. won. Humans lost.”

Another competitor in the art competition, Jessica Hair, won third place in the same category and told 9News, “I don’t know if I’ve had enough time to process that,” about losing to the AI art.

One of the two judges in the competition, Cal Duran, told 9News Allen’s winning artwork “had a voice,” despite being made by AI which he said he didn’t know.

“I think the artist that made it had a voice creating it,” Duran told the station.

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bnguyen@insider.com Britney Nguyen