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Why Unbanned?

The Story

In recent years, artists found a new technology that allowed them to expand their talents, reach new audiences, find communities, and have full ownership and control of the way in which their art is sold. That's right, we are talking about blockchain technology, which has brought us the powerful NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens).

The traditional artworld has been majorly gate-kept for centuries, and has been particularly difficult to get into by women, LGBT, BIPOC, and people from underrepresented backgrounds, who wish to enter gallery programmes or residencies, so that their artworks can be seen and sold.

NFT marketplaces became a place where artists can sell their artworks as tokens on the blockchain, and therefore, a place where they were no longer restricted to the personal preferences of gate keepers, thus being able to break free and become empowered, autonomous artists. This represented a huge opportunity to all artists who struggled to make a living out of their art, but especially, to those who were living in countries where an art career is almost completely impossible to attain.

Thanks to blockchain technology and NFTs, in recent years we've had the pleasure to discover new talent, inspiring art, and thrilling digital artworks that have directed the industry towards a new and burgeoning renaissance.  We have discovered hundreds of artists from all over the world who would otherwise had it more difficult getting a breakthrough, and being able to quit their jobs to dedicate full-time to produce art.

But things changed in early 2022, when multiple marketplaces began implementing sanctions on artists from specific countries. When updating their terms and conditions, they decided that artists would not be allowed to use their platforms if they were from, or based in, any of their banned countries. 

Interestingly, these banned countries have something in common: they are in regions of the world that are either marginalized, or currently experiencing social upheaval and war. Artists from countries such as Cuba, Iran, Lebanon, and parts of Ukraine have been robbed of the opportunity to continue their artistic journey in this medium, and therefore, to make a living out of their art. Most of them have found smaller marketplaces where they can still mint (upload) their artworks, but the fear of getting banned remains, since there is uncertainty as to if, and when, these other marketplaces will ban them as well.

This blockchain technology, is part of what many artists, developers and futurists call Web3, which is the next phase, not just of the internet, but of society: an open, inclusive, innovative, democratic and decentralised society that encompasses cryptocurrencies, NFTs, Decentralised Autonomous Organisaitons (DAOs), and the continuous development of the metaverse. Together, they allow for Decentralised Finance (DeFi) to exist. An economy that is open, accessible, and inclusive of all, no matter who you are, where you live, where you were born, your race, skin colour, religion,  or sexual orientation. 

By banning artists based on their nationalities or geolocations, these NFT marketplaces have broken the vows of the promising decentralised future that they so much like to promote. 

Unbanned was born out of the desire to not only bring this issue to the public eye, but to also inform on the countless opportunities that Web3 can create for artists, when its decentralisation values are not only preached, but moreover, respected. 

Opening with a preview night for press and ticket holders on January 21st 2023, Unbanned will stay open to the public with an immersive exhibition of artworks produced by some of the artists that were banned, from January 22nd to 26th. 

Latin artists have a voice. Middle Eastern artists have a voice. African artists have a voice. Eurasian artists have a voice. Unbanned gives them a platform where their artworks can be celebrated, and their voices heard.

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