AI Artwork Wins First Place In Competition And Artists Are Livid

AI artwork took home the top prize at a recent contest and real artists are none too pleased about the result.

By Doug Norrie | Updated

ai artwork

There will probably be a day when machines fully take over our world, rendering humans obsolete and becoming the supreme rulers through and through. We aren’t at that day yet, but it wouldn’t be shocking if it was coming. For now though, it would seem that the machines continue to make inroads, beginning to replace humans even in places one wouldn’t have thought immediately possible. One of them would be in the world of AI artwork where they seem to be significantly better than humans in terms of wielding artist tools and putting out pretty incredible works. In fact, recently an artificial intelligence art program just produced a prize-winning piece against human artists and the latter are none too pleased with the result.

According to Vice, an art contest at the Colorado State Fair had a controversial ending when the winning painting wasn’t produced by a human artist, or at least not one who created it came to putting the actual picture in print. Jason Allen, the president of Incarnate Games, took home the top prize for his AI artwork “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial.” which is a stunning picture of what appears to be a royal hall on some distant planet with an opening to a beautiful new world. It appears intricate and stylized, with tremendous detail around even the smallest areas of the work. In “normal” circumstances, there would be almost no question that this painting could win an award at a competition. The only problem, in some people’s eyes, is that Allen used artificial intelligence to create the painting, ultimately having it printed up onto a canvas and submitting it for the competition. You can see some images of the piece below:

Allen winning the prize with AI artwork did create some backlash among those who thought that this submission wasn’t in the spirit of the competition. The organizers of the event apparently weren’t aware, at the time of the voting, that Allen ad used AI for his piece, though they did admit later that there were no rules stating it couldn’t be done this way. That being said, it stands to reason that had they known ahead of time it might have factored, at least some into their decision. 

And other artists were annoyed at Allen’s AI artwork taking the top prize seeing as how he wasn’t the one with the brush or digital tool in his hands at the time of the creation. One need only take a stroll through the comments of the above Twitter post to see that some consensus formed among artists that this wasn’t necessarily a good thing for the medium with a machine essentially producing the final product.

Though according to Allen, who spoke with Vice, he sees the situation a little differently. He was quick to point out that he had similar artistic constraints on him when creating the AI program for the artwork, needing to input all of the correct information needed to produce such high-quality work. To him, it was just a different kind of artistic output, just not in line with what it typically thought about the process.

AI algorithms can generate artistic images or video animation based on a set of parameters or create new images by combining and altering existing images. This is likely the future of art with AI artwork clearly able to produce some beautiful pieces. But there will be artists who push back against this idea, and maybe for good reason. It represents a major shift in how we think about the medium.