An AI-Generated Artwork Won First Place at a State Fair Fine Arts Competition, and Artists Are Pissed

At the Colorado State Fair, Jason Allen's AI-generated piece "Théâtre D'opéra Spatial" won first prize in the digital category.

Using an AI-generated piece of art, a man won the fine art competition at the Colorado State Fair on Monday. In a Discord post, a person going by the name Sincarnate said, "I got first place," atop images of the AI-generated canvases displayed at the event.

Jason Allen, the president of the Colorado-based tabletop game firm Incarnate Games, is known as Sincarnate. He won in the digital art category, according to the state fair's website, with a piece titled "Théâtre D'opéra Spatial." The picture, which Allen submitted printed on canvas, is stunning. It appears to be a fine artwork and portrays an odd setting that may have come from a space opera. Through a spherical viewport, classical characters in a Baroque hall gaze onto a luminous and sun-drenched scene.

But an artificial intelligence program named Midjourney painted "Théâtre D'opéra Spatial," not Allen. It followed his instructions, but Allen didn't use a digital paintbrush. On Twitter, professional artists and art fans argued that Allen was speeding up the demise of creative professions by making this difference.

Artist Genel Jumalon tweeted about Allen's victory, "TL;DR – Someone entered an art competition with an AI-generated painting and got the first prize." "That's really fucking terrible," I agree.

A Twitter user going by the handle OmniMorpho responded with a statement that received over 2,000 likes: "We're seeing the death of artistry happen before our eyes." Even highly skilled employment run the risk of becoming obsolete if creative jobs aren't protected against automation. Then, what will we have?

In the Midjourney Discord server on Tuesday, Allen remarked, "I knew this would be contentious. "How ironic that all these individuals on Twitter who are against artificial intelligence-generated art are the first to criticize the human aspect and throw the human under the bus! Do you guys think this is hypocritical?

Allen responded when Motherboard contacted him, saying that he would be driving for 12 hours and would not be able to reply right away.

Allen claims that the award-winning artwork would not have been what it is now without his contribution. Prior to the winners being revealed, he wrote in a post, "I have been exploring a special prompt that I will be publishing at a later time, 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 unshackling with Gigapixel AI.

Allen said that his detractors were evaluating his work based on the process used to make it and that someday, the art world will classify AI-produced artwork under its own category. What if we took it to the opposite extreme? he said. "What if an artist established a tremendously tough and convoluted sequence of restrictions in order to make a work, say, they made their art while hanging upside-down and being lashed while painting." Should the work of this artist be assessed differently from the work of another artist who produced the identical artwork "normally"? I know what will happen to this in the end; I assume they will just establish a category for "artificial intelligence art" for items like this.

The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI)-generated art worries artists. After publishing an email with a Midjourney-generated image of Alex Jones, Atlantic writer Charlie Warzel became well-known. Many individuals were offended by a big newspaper adopting AI instead of a human artist. In a subsequent essay, cartoonist Matt Borrs told Warzel that "technology is rapidly being used to create gig employment and to enrich billionaires, and so much of it doesn't appear to help the public well enough." A part of that is AI art. It seems as though you've eliminated the necessity to hire the illustrator, which is incredibly disappointing to illustrators but cool to developers and technically oriented individuals.

Jason Allen through Midjourney was explicitly stated on Allen's entry to the state fair, and Allen once more emphasized the need for human labor in the creation of the piece. "I do passes in Photoshop, upscale with Gigapixel, then produce pictures with MJ."

Despite the controversy, the victory has only boosted his confidence. He said, "I'm not stopping now. "This victory has only energized my endeavor."