International Coalition Launches Virtual Gallery of Art Censored by Social Media
5/19/2020 New York, NY– On May 19, 2020, an international coalition of arts and free expression organizations, including the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), IBEX Collection, Article19, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), International Arts Rights Advisors, and Freemuse, launched Don’t Delete Art, a virtual gallery showcasing work which is banned or restricted on social media. The gallery, whose curators include frequently-censored artists Spencer Tunick and Savannah Spirit, was created in response to artists’ increased reliance on social media platforms as the coronavirus pandemic forced global closings of physical art spaces. With social media as the world’s primary art space, artists are more vulnerable than ever to the chaotic manner in which platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube, remove and restrict art vaguely defined as “objectionable.” The gallery is part of a campaign calling on social media companies to adopt a clear set of notice and appeals principles guiding the regulation of art online and allowing art to circulate freely in the online environment.
As NCAC’s Director of Programs, Svetlana Mintcheva, explained, “The reliance on social media during this pandemic has only exacerbated an ongoing problem: the censorship of art by social media companies. As is always the case with censorship, those with the least access to political or cultural power are the first silenced. We understand companies are facing unprecedented challenges moderating their platforms, but that is no reason to choose the easy but profoundly undemocratic route of jettisoning creative freedom.”
David Willson, IBEX Collection Executive Director and Collector, detailed why this project is so vital: “Banning artworks and artists accounts means not only cutting off creatives from their fans and customers, and in many cases damaging their careers, but also forces artists to self-censor, even when fully compliant with social media community guidelines, which is an insidious problem cutting away the heart of artistic freedom. Instead of suppressing artists, it is crucial to support artists as they are striving to maintain themselves in a period that has seen devastation of the arts and the art markets.”
The Don’t Delete Art gallery is curated by a collective including artists Spencer Tunick and Savannah Spirit, as well as representatives from the arts organizations involved. The gallery will host webinars and digital events, as well as rotating exhibitions.
According to censored artist Reuben Negron, “Social media networks dictating what is acceptable and what is not is shifting our public perceptions of what we are willing to see. And that, for instance, dictates what we hang on our walls. If people are no longer buying certain things, galleries aren’t going to show that content; they aren’t going to take on artists who deal with ‘difficult’ subject matter. Thereby, those artists may no longer have venues to show their work.”
In addition to providing a platform for censored art, the coalition is calling on social media companies to adopt a set of principles governing how they handle artist content on their platforms. The principles include increased notifications for content that is removed or “downranked,” better guidance and more opportunities to appeal all content moderation decisions from post removal to downranking to account deletion, and a commitment to encourage, rather than discourage, artistic freedom.
The gallery is accepting submissions and will be updated on a revolving basis.
Don’t Delete Art is viewable at dontdelete.art. The website includes a submission form for censored artists, as well as more information about the curatorial collective.
The National Coalition Against Censorship promotes freedom of thought, inquiry and expression and opposes censorship in all its forms. NCAC’s Arts Advocacy Program is the only US national program dedicated to working directly with artists, curators and arts institutions facing censorship threats.
IBEX Collection is the largest active collection of contemporary, figurative, super-realistic art in the world.
Article19 works for a world where all people everywhere can freely express themselves and actively engage in public life without fear of discrimination. Their Missing Voices campaign calls on social media platforms to improve their accountability and transparency processes giving all users the right to speak up when content is taken down wrongfully.
Freemuse is an independent international organisation advocating for and defending freedom of artistic expression.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. The Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) expands on PEN America’s work defending writers by safeguarding the right to artistic freedom of expression and ensuring that artists and cultural professionals everywhere can live and work without fear.
International Arts Rights Advisors provide support, information, and training to artists and arts institutions, taking a creative, dynamic and personal approach to keeping the space for expression open to multiple and diverse voices.