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AI-Generated Work Wins Colorado State Fair, Causes Backlash

An A.I.-generated painting, which won the Colorado State Art Fair this year, has been making waves with both praise and criticism.

The work, titled Théâtre D’opéra Spatial, is attributed to Jason Allen. For the submission, Allen used a text-to-image generator AI called Midjourney. The tool works by converting textual descriptions into visual form based on its understanding of art, though Allen didn’t reveal what phrases exactly he used for his submission. The result of it was a strange but serene painting that featured people in a building looking out through a giant, round opening. The work won the first prize at the Colorado State Art Fair, held annually.

As soon as the news of the win spread, people came in with some strong reactions. Cartoonist Mark Bors, in an interview with The Atlantic, said: “To developers and technically minded people, [AI is] this cool thing, but to illustrators it’s very upsetting because it feels like you’ve eliminated the need to hire the illustrator.” Many other users also pointed out that if creative jobs aren’t safe from AI, then even no job eventually would be. Others called it the “death of artistry”. The news seemed to have given fresh fodder to the ongoing debate of AI replacing humans entirely in the future.

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However, Jason Allen – who is the president of Colorado-based game design company Incarnate Games – seems unperturbed by this. Speaking to a newspaper, Allen said: “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 largely due to the disruptive technology of open AI,” Allen told the Chieftain. “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.”