The Washington PostThe Washington Post

He used AI to win a fine-arts competition. Was it cheating?

By Drew Harwell

03 Sep 2022 · 9 min read

Editor's Note

Is AI generated art, well, art? The Washington Post tells the story of one artist getting an award for an artwork that some say isn’t really an artwork.

When Jason Allen submitted his "Théâtre D'opéra Spatial" into the Colorado State Fair's fine-arts competition last week, the sumptuous print was an immediate hit, beating 20 other artists in the "digitally manipulated photography" category to win the first-place blue ribbon and a $300 prize.

What Allen had only hinted at, however, was that the artwork had been created in large part by an artificial-intelligence tool, Midjourney, that can generate realistic images at a user's command. The portrait of three figures, dressed in flowing robes, staring out to a bright beyond, was so finely detailed the judges couldn't tell.

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