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NFT Marketplace OpenSea Has Blocked Cuban Artists and Collectors From Its Platform, Citing U.S. Sanctions Law

OpenSea, the Internet’s largest NFT marketplace, is excluding Cuban artist and collector accounts from its platform to comply with US sanctions laws.

Suspicions that OpenSea was specifically targeting Cuban accounts have lingered for months — a stance the New York-based company has taken regarding countries such as Venezuela, Iran and Syria — but Artnet News can now confirm that the policy extends to Cuban artists. After exchange with the platform.

“We comply with US sanctions laws,” an OpenSea spokesperson told Artnet News in an email. “Our Terms of Service expressly prohibit the use of OpenSea by any person or service that is sanctioned or located in a sanctioned jurisdiction.”

The development comes as a blow to Cuban artists who began creating works on blockchain during the NFT boom of early 2021, a time when the pandemic’s high travel restrictions robbed the island of precious tourist money. was consistent with

One such artist is photographer Gabriel Bianchini, whose work has appeared at the Havana Biennale and the MIA Photo Fair in Milan. Social His Audio He soon mined after learning about his NFTs on his Clubhouse on his app. Hotel Havana, a multi-layered image of the capital’s colorful, decaying buildings. We sold out in a few days.

Gabriel Bianchini Hotel Havana (2020). Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

“We were trapped in a pandemic as the economic, political and social situation became increasingly difficult,” Bianchini told Artnet News. “This technology was not only financially but also creatively liberating and was a bridge that allowed us Cuban artists to connect with the world.”

Bianchini encouraged other Cuban artists to make the transition to digital, and a thriving community followed. Based in NFTcuba.ART, the diaspora formed a veritable network.

NFTcuba.ART is currently systematically blocked from marketplaces that receive more than 120 million monthly visitors. To date, over 30 Cuban artists have been delisted from OpenSea accounts. The technology behind NFTs may be transparent and decentralized, but the companies that platform the exchange are not.

For Cuban artists, OpenSea’s decision comes as no surprise. This follows his 60-year history of US sanctions that followed the digital age with Zoom, MailChimp, WeTransfer, Gitlab, etc. not accessible from within Cuba (even with a VPN in some cases).

“I Saw It Coming” Cuban NFT Artist Jordanis Garcia Delgado told Artnet News. “Because of the blockade that the United States maintains against Cuba, it is very difficult to be decentralized and not held accountable to government authorities.”

One point of confusion is that OpenSea celebrates and platforms Cuban artists (featured in National Hispanic Heritage Month, co-hosted by Bianchini), resulting in a blanket ban regardless of the user’s other nationalities. in the fact that it has rapidly transformed into For example, Bianchini is Swiss-Italian and now lives in Spain. Gianni D’Alerta, the founder of NFTcuba.ART, was also targeted and lives in the United States.

The move is also counterintuitive in that it prevents political messages not welcomed by Cuban galleries from reaching the wider world. Professor’s remark. “It is very ironic that, in this case, it is the people who have been affected, both financially and in terms of free cultural expression, who are using art to challenge government censorship, and a Cuban artist who often makes critical comments about artistic reality,” he said.

So what’s next for Cuba’s up-and-coming NFT art scene? Bianchini expects artists to focus on other platforms such as Foundation and SuperRare in the near term. Still, I’m optimistic about the future of Web3.

“I’m still betting that this technology will bring freedom to a country like mine,” said Bianchini. “I’m not just talking about financial freedom, I’m talking about creative freedom and freedom of expression.”

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