Is Real Art Dead? The Rise of the AI Artists and an AI Picture Winning an Award Stirs Debate

Recently, an AI-generated image won an art prize and stirred debate within the industry regarding using tech tools to create art. Read on for the deets.

The Prize

During the Colorado State Fair's annual art competition this year, prizes were offered to all the usual categories: painting, quilting, and sculpture. One entrant, Jason M. Allen of Pueblo West, Colo., did something out of the box and created his painting with Midjourney. This artificial intelligence program turns lines of text into hyper-realistic graphics.

His work, "Théâtre D'opéra Spatial," took home the blue ribbon in the fair's contest meant for emerging digital artists. It is now one of the first A.I.-generated pieces to win such a prize. As you might have guessed, the award initiated a backlash from artists who accused him of cheating.

Mr. Allen defended his work and said that he submitted his work as "Jason M. Allen via Midjourney" so he didn't hide the fact that his piece was created using AI. He said, "I'm not going to apologize for it. I won, and I didn't break any rules."

The Backlash

After winning the prize, he posted a photo of his prize work to the Midjourney Discord chat, which was shared on Twitter. Some people didn't take it well. One Twitter user wrote, "We're watching the death of artistry unfold right before our eyes." Another tweet read, "This is so gross. I can see how AI art can be beneficial, but claiming you're an artist by generating one? Absolutely not."


Some artists defended Mr. Allen by saying that using AI was no different than using other digital image manipulation tools like Photoshop. They said that human creativity is still required to come up with the right prompts that help generate an award-winning image.

One of the voices that defended A.I.-generated art is Daniel Rourke. He is a lecturer in digital media at Goldsmiths university in London. He said, "AI is just a set of tools composed of algorithms, data, and interfaces. As we come to terms with AI in many aspects of our lives, so—as happened with computers or so-called 'new media'—the idea and the tool itself will partially fade into the background. Artists will play a big part in aestheticizing AI; in making it comprehensible to a wider audience. In the meantime, there will be good and bad art made with these AI tools."


Some artists feared that the new AI image generator breed might take their jobs, and they might have wasted so many years learning their craft.

California-based movie and game concept artist RJ Palmer shared in a tweet, "This thing wants our jobs, it's actively anti-artist.", That tweet has been liked more than 25,000 times.

He also highlighted that AI systems' output could easily imitate living artists. He said that in one case he examined, the AI even attempted to reproduce the signatures of the artists.

The Announcement

After the backlash, several online art communities, like Inkblot Art and Newgrounds' Art Portal, have announced that they will not welcome A.I.-generated artworks on their websites. However, DeviantArt, ArtStation, and other larger platforms have made no such announcement.


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