Colorado State Fair: AI-generated work wins art competition

It was probably only a matter of time before such a message made the rounds : At an art competition in the US state of Colorado, a participant who some people now deny is an artist has prevailed – because he used software called Midjourney to create the winning picture used. Midjourney is a so-called text-to-image generator that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate images based on text input.

Such generators are currently a major grid trend: The results they deliver are sometimes spectacularly good (read more about this here). With programs such as Midjourney, Crayion and Stable Diffusion, there are currently several tools in circulation that generate images that are sometimes hardly or not at all distinguishable from photos or the works of professional illustrators.

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A Discord post that went viral on Twitter

On the Discord platform, Allen first reported his success himself. His post on Twitter, however, received more attention, where a screenshot of the Discord post contained more than 11.000 times was retweeted . “Someone entered an art competition with an AI-generated work and won first prize,” the Twitter user who shared the screenshot wrote, “Yeah, that sucks.”

There is now a heated debate on social media about whether Allen is an artist or not and whether he received the award he received at the Colorado State Fair won, was to be denied again – because he let an AI tool work for him.

On closer inspection, however, the alleged art scandal is not even a small scandal: Jason Allen himself states that when he submitted the work – on canvas, by the way – he pointed out verbally and in writing that Midjourney was involved. He wrote on Discord that he signed »by Jason M. Allen via Midjourney«.


That Allen did not hide the use of Midjourney has now also been confirmed by Olga Robak, who does press work for the Colorado State Fair . However, it is unclear whether the jury knew what to do with the name of the software and the technology behind it.

The picture was edited

Allen had submitted his work together with two similarly titled AI images also in a suitable category called »Digital Art«/»Digitally Manipulated Photography« . Digital art is defined as »artistic practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative process or presentation«. The guidelines do not contain an explicit indication of whether or not AI tools such as Midjourney are permitted. Press secretary Olga Robak said that according to a preliminary check, Allen did not break any rules.

Speaking to local newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain, Allen also pointed out that his winning image did not come out of the AI ​​tool one-to-one as submitted. He post-processed all three submitted images in Photoshop and then scaled them up with the Gigapixel software . On Discord, Allen speaks of a Photoshop share of “at least ten percent”. According to him, a total of around 80 hours of work went into the project. He chose his three motifs from a total of 80 options.

Critics of his actions accuse Allen of hypocrisy. He writes on Discord that it’s “interesting to see that all the people on Twitter who are against AI-generated art are the first to throw someone to the wolves by discrediting the human element”.

“I won’t apologize for this”

He wanted to set an example by submitting the AI ​​works, Allen said in an interview with “The Pueblo Chieftain”. “I feel like I’ve succeeded, and I won’t apologize for it.” In the future, Allen said he could also envision a dedicated competition category dedicated to AI art.

According to the newspaper, he compares the prejudice against AI art to the initial rejection of photography, when some people thought taking photos was “just standing there and pressing a button”. “A lot of people say, ‘AI will never take over the creative professions, it’s never going to be something artists and sculptors have to worry about,'” Allen says. The discussion has already begun, and one must “deal with it right now”.

According to the report, Allen has his first prize alongside some hate comments on the Internet by the way, only brought in 300 dollar prize money. He now wants to sell the canvas version of his winning picture – for 300 dollars.

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