AI-Based Artwork Wins Prize
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Sunday, 11 September 2022

An art prize has been won by an artwork created using a combination of AI and PhotoShop. While the judges didn't know the origins of the work, they have said they'd still have given it first prize had they known it was AI-generated.

The prize was won at the Colorado State Fair, in the digital arts competition. Jason Allen, the creator, is a video game designer from Colorado. He won the $300 dollar prize with an artwork titled "Théâtre D’opéra Spatial", which shows a strangely old-school picture of women in flowing robes looking through a large circular window onto a misty landscape. If you'd told me it was a painting by some Victorian artist such as Burne-Jones or Alma-Tadema I wouldn't have argued.


The reality is that Allen used Midjourney, an AI package that takes a short description and creates an image reflecting those words using a technique known as diffusion. Having won, Allen wrote about it on the Discord chat server, and the announcement has caused a lot of complaints.

What's interesting is just why people are feeling annoyed.

Some of the feedback seem to be just not keeping up - the New York Times pointed out that Allen "didn't make his entry with a brush or a lump of clay. He created it with MidJourney, an artificial intelligence program that turns lines of text into hyper-realistic graphics." Which rather misses the point of it being a digital art class, in which the competition guidelines say digital art is “artistic practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process.”

Artists on Twitter also complained, with Genel Jumalon, an artist on Twitter, saying: "Someone entered an art competition with an AI-generated piece and won the first prize. ·Yeah that's pretty fucking shitty."

These critics seem to have missed the fact that this is more a publicity stunt than a real victory. Jason Allen didn't just take an AI-generated image. He says he looked through over hundreds of images created by Midjourney, chose three, then spent many weeks fine tuning the images in PhotoShop and using GigaPixel AI to 'upscale them'. Apart from the perhaps mercenary thought that I'd want a better return for 80 hours of image editing than $300, the real question is, is that AI-generated art? I'd say not. If the original images created by Midjourney had won, fine. But Allen's claim to the New York Times that:

“Art is dead, dude. It’s over. A.I. won. Humans lost.”

seems a bit overstated. AI, with careful human selection, and over 80 hours of editing with sophisticated image editing software, won in a class of 18 entries (three by Allen) at the Colorado State Fair. I think I'll wait till an image wins a high-value, high-profile competition having been purely AI-generated, without undergoing long and careful editing and enhancement. 

More Information

Midjourney Website

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 11 September 2022 )