Then give them away.

“It's hard to live idealistic in a realistic world,” states Denver artist Jonathan Saiz who has undertaken no small feat. On May 12, at the Denver Art Museum, Saiz will install #WhatisUtopia, an exhibit of 10,000 mini 2x2 inch original artworks, as a part of the museum's Eyes On series focusing on bringing greater exposure to contemporary artists. The show will conclude on November 17, 2019, with Saiz giving away all 10,000 works to the public.

Saiz has created an Instagram account called Utopia_is_Free, which engages the public in a conversation around our ability to envision a modern utopia. It also documents his process and gives access to Saiz’s own responses and ideas about utopia as he questions, comments, and wonders in almost an on-going artist’s statement.

Artist Jonathan Saiz What is Utopia

Courtesy of Instagram

Utopia is defined as “an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens.” This assumes we agree on what those highly desirable qualities are.

He explains how the concept for this project developed. “I want to feel empowered in this world, especially as it seems to be on the verge of something genuinely dystopian - this project is my way of feeling like I'm investing my social contributions towards a grand-scale vision to counteract all the negative energy.”

Saiz’s resume is a broad archive of art education, special projects, art residencies, and national and international exhibitions which have lead him to his current gallery representation at K Contemporary and the installation of 10,000 works at DAM.

Photo by Wes Magyar, Jonathan Saiz, Utopia is free

Photo by Wes Magyar

While the sheer volume of creative output has drawn early interest, the individual artworks are not to be overlooked. Contained within an acrylic box, these mixed media, mini works vary in styles, mediums, and subject matter from beautifully detailed drawings to expressive abstract strokes. Some of the more intriguing works incorporate the space in and outside their acrylic framing.

Saiz says his process of creating diversity in so many works is owed to a fabulously short attention span. “I figured out a way to build diversity into my different works by allowing myself to follow my whims in the studio. There are so many dynamic parts of a Utopian vision that I could never capture them all. These 10,000 different pieces with different styles are my way to express this complexity.”

Artist Jonathan Saiz What is Utopia

Courtesy of Instagram

Saiz describes the progression of his art and how he reached the point to give away the artworks. “Each of my projects before this one has been experimenting with the idea of inviting more people in the practice of loving contemporary art in new and approachable ways. I played with lowering the price, allowing people to pay or not pay with an honor-system - and they all lead up to this concept which removes all monetary value entirely. It felt like an unavoidable progression. And it's a scary progression too.”

How does ‘free art’ factor into an industry in which its makers and creators already struggle to be fairly compensated for their work? Saiz offers, “The reason why artists aren't being paid what they are worth is because fewer and fewer people aren't being taught how to truly value original art. The more art I can afford to give away, the more I can help to inspire people to start appreciating and collecting art AND the more I hope people can see that monetary compensation is the least valuable type of transactional energy.”

Artist Jonathan Saiz Utopia is Free

Courtesy of Instagram

Could free art could be a means to deepen our appreciation for it? Could it be a start to shake us from our money-obsessed path and challenge us to think about how art is valued and monetized in our society? While our future will likely not resemble a utopian one, Saiz’s work may just give us 10,000 reasons to meet his challenge and start to imagine a better, beautiful future is possible.

How the artworks will be given away will be announced this summer.

What has made you appreciate art more? What does utopia look like to you? Let us in the comments!

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