Denver-based artist Jonathan Saiz believes everyone should have art in their life, so he decided to give 10,000 of his own pieces away for free. He spent an intense 5 months creating his collection of two-by-two-inch drawings, paintings, and sculptures—all of which explore the idea of utopia. All 10,000 works are currently on display at the Eyes On exhibition at the Denver Art Museum on a single 33-foot-wide pillar called #WhatIsUtopia. Once the exhibition closes on November 17, 2019, Saiz will take every tiny artwork down, package them carefully, and hand them out to 10,000 different people.
Saiz used a vast amount of mediums when creating his tiny masterpieces, including oil paint and clay. Some of the artworks even contain gems, pearls, and 24-carat gold leaf, but the artist sees the giveaway process as “an emotional transaction instead of a monetary one.” From afar, exhibition visitors can experience a pixelated landscape that allows them to imagine their own version of utopia. Up close, each single tile artwork reveals Saiz’s individual worlds. From painted portraits to abstract landscapes, the colossal collection features a range of subject matter.
You can follow the exhibition story on Instagram with the hashtags #WhatisUtopia and #JonathanSaizatDAM.
We recently caught up with Saiz to find out more about the project. Read on for My Modern Met’s exclusive interview.
Why did you decide to give your artwork away for free?
Money has a way of ruining everything—it turns everything that is magical and beautiful into a commodity, and it turns artists into robots. To explore a truly utopian vision, I wanted to revolt against that system with this work—I wanted to give all these artworks away for free as a way to express my love and respect for as many people as I possibly could, and to celebrate the idea of a truly free world.
Where did you come up with the themes and ideas for each little square artwork?
My utopia is a weird and vibrant place filled with multicultural people, #solarpunk cities, and an extreme love for nature. I let my imagination wander and did my best to make each square special, optimistic and experimental—it was a lot of fun to explore in my dreams.
How long did it take you to complete all 10,000 pieces?
I had only 150 days to complete all 10,000 pieces —those were five VERY busy months in 2019.
Can you explain your vision of utopia and how you have expressed it visually through the #WhatisUtopia piece?
It's almost impossible to describe a peaceful place and time that only exists in our imagination. My hazy daydream of this lovely world changes all the time so I tried to capture that essence: A vast landscape where you can almost recognize familiar objects and spaces, cradled in between the sea and the sky and filled with indescribable beauty. The hashtag question: #WhatisUtopia was a way for me start a conversation with others about what their utopian visions are about, so we can fill Instagram with positive messaging and then build it all together.
How important do you think social media is for contemporary artists?
Social media is the most powerful tool we have to connect our artwork with the world. It's incredibly important to be able to share and spread ideas, and to use it as a way to influence our communities to find value in healthier and more innovative approaches to art and design.
Do you have any other exciting projects coming up that you'd like to share?
My work on this project won't just end after these 10,000 pieces are given away—it's a long-term project where I plan on giving 100,000 artworks away in different and experimental projects. I hope people follow along at @Utopia_is_free to get one of these free artworks, AND to see my next collaboration with my other creation @FountainTarot for the next big giveaway!