While AI Artists Thrive, Detractors Worry — But Both Miss What’s Coming
An original counterargument to “AI art isn’t art” and “there’s no skill needed to create art with AI” — and why this will be the demise of democratic art.
Last week, game designer Jason Allen used the AI model Midjourney to create “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” the artwork you see in the cover image. It’s a nice piece that, although exudes a clear AI scent, has found a delicate mix between traditional baroque opera style, reflected in people’s clothing, and Dune-like sci-fi architectural features. Just another day in the AI art space. Except it isn’t. Allen’s Théâtre D’opéra Spatial has won 1st place at a fine arts competition at a Colorado State Fair in the category of digital art for emerging artists — not necessarily a big feat by itself, but maybe a hint of what’s to come.
Several major news outlets have covered the news which has had two effects. First, it may suggest the event has more significance than it actually has (Allen was competing only against 17 other entries), and, second, the coverage has directed unwanted attention to Allen and the field of AI art. This isn’t the first time people — traditional creative workers mainly, but also spectators outside of art and AI — criticize this new wave of AI tools and those using them. I’ve previously written about this and I reaffirm my conclusion: We have to have respectful and open-minded conversations.
However, more people have begun to realize the potential repercussions of this new AI trend, and, as those become real (Allen’s win is just the latest example), criticisms are getting louder. This article isn’t just about Allen’s story, but about the bigger picture that the ubiquity of AI-generated artwork, the exalted critics, and the broad coverage of both are painting (pun intended).
I’ll try to refute the most common arguments people have used against Allen — and against AI-generated art and artists that use the tools, more generally. Those take the form of “anyone can use AI to create images but that doesn’t make them artists,” “there’s no skill needed to use these tools,” and people’s favorite: “AI art isn’t art.”