AI-generated artwork controversially wins award at US State Fair

Game designer Jason Allen won first place at the Colorado State Fair art competition with a work he made using an artificial intelligence image generator. Allen’s controversial victory has sparked fury online, as human artists yet again fear for the future of their profession. “We’re watching the death of artistry unfold before our eyes,” despaired one Twitter user in reaction to the announcement.

Unlike other entries in the fair’s digital category, the winning piece was not digitally painted by the artist, but instead made using an A.I. tool called Midjourney. The text to image tool automatically generates pictures based on the words the user submits.

I wanted to make a statement using artificial intelligence artwork. I feel like I accomplished that, and I’m not going to apologize for it,” said Allen.

‘Théâtre D’opéra Spatial’ – the winning work – is a digital collage that depicts three opera performers bathed in the light of an opulent extra-terrestrial landscape. Allen, who is president of Colorado-based tabletop gaming company Incarnate Games, has refused to share the combination of words he fed to the generator to create this piece.

Speaking about his creative process, Allen explained that he had “created hundreds of images using it [Midjourney], and after many weeks of fine tuning and curating my gens, I chose my top three and had them printed on canvas after upscaling with Gigapixel A.I.” His artworks were entered into the emerging artist digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography category and were priced at $750 (£649).

Although many artists are concerned about the rise of AI-generated artworks, Allen has only been spurred on by his controversial win. “I feel like, right now, the art community is heading into an existential crisis if it’s not already. A big factor of that is … the disruptive technology of open AI,” explained Allen. “A lot of people are saying, ‘AI is never going to take over creative jobs, that’s never going to be something that artists and sculptors have to worry about.’ And here we are smack in the middle of it, dealing with it right now.”

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