Over the last fifteen years, British artist Jason deCaires Taylor has been transforming the ocean floor into an art gallery of sorts.
Submerged in several locations, these installations are stunning. Taylor has been setting up public art spaces filled with sculptures. You can find them in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean, and even off the coast of Australia. Some are viewable from glass-bottom boat tours, while others are best experienced up close and personal with scuba gear.
Art as a Form of Ocean Conservation
But these unique art spaces are more than just something pretty to look at. Taylor hopes that his sculptural installations will promote ocean conservation.
While the sculpture parks are nice to look at, they also have a deeper meaning. The projects explore the relationship between humans and the natural world. They are also hopefully providing a small solution to problems in the natural world caused by humans.
The first of these installations was created to help damaged and destroyed coral reefs off the coast of Grenada in the West Indies. Construction on the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park began in 2006, and there are now at least 75 concrete sculptures. The figures used were cast from people in the local community.
The sculptures themselves are created from a specific kind of cement that encourages reef growth, attracting ocean creatures to “move in.” Techniques are used to reduce the pH of the cement, and a textured surface is applied. It encourages coral polyps to attach to the surface, and this also attracts other small marine life.
Sculptures Protect Existing Coral Reefs
While the sculptures themselves provide places for coral growth, they are also designed to protect other existing fragile reefs, including in Flamingo Bay. The reefs attract a huge number of tourists every year, but this can be extremely damaging. Taylor’s sculpture park relieves some of the tourism pressure on natural reefs. Entrance fees help fund park rangers to manage tourism, as well.
The Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park covers 800 square meters of the ocean floor in Moilinere Bay and sits anywhere from 5 to 12 meters below the surface. The sculpture park has been there for almost sixteen years now, so they are thriving with underwater life. They are viewable by snorkeling and from glass-bottom boats. But for the full experience, you can get up close with scuba gear.
“The Lost Correspondent” is a man sitting at a desk with his typewriter, newspaper articles collected on the desktop. You’ll also find “Unstill Life,” a classical still life featuring a vase and a bowl of fruit on a table. “Vicissitudes” is perhaps the most famous of all the works. It features a circle of life-size children holding hands. They are meant to be a symbol of unity and resilience.
Taylor’s sculptural installations, meant to promote ocean conservation and address climate change, proved to be popular. Soon, the artist and environmentalist went on to create similar underwater art across the globe. You’ll also find these underwater museums in the waters of Australia, France, Mexico, and Indonesia.
It would be a massive undertaking to list all of Taylor’s underwater sculptures worldwide. However, we can take a look at the artist’s major projects that are must-visit destinations.
The Underwater Museum of Cannes in Sainte-Marguerite, France
Completed in 2021, this underwater museum is just off the coast of Cannes, France. It features six works that were based on portraits of local community members. The split mask concept is meant to be a metaphor for the ocean. One side shows resilience and strength, and the other represents fragility and decay.
Nest in Indonesia
Comprised of 48 life-size human figures, Nest is located off the coast of the tropical island Gili Meno. This island is known for coral reefs just offshore. Nest is a short swim away from the new sustainable beach club BASK Gili Meno.
Museo Atlantico in Playa Blanca, Spain
Museo Atlantico was the first of these sculpture parks in the Atlantic Ocean. It is impressive in size, comprised of ten different groups of sculptures. One of them features 200 life-size sculptures placed together in a circle.
Museum of Underwater Art in Townsville, Australia
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is already a site of remarkable beauty. It contains the world’s largest collection of coral reefs. And now, the area is home to some of Taylor’s living sculptures, too. The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) is located here, off the coast of Townsville North Queensland. So far, it’s Taylor’s only underwater sculpture park in the Southern Hemisphere.
Cancun Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA) in Cancun/Isla Mujeres, Mexico
The Cancun Underwater Museum of Art (Museo Subacuático de Arte, or MUSA) has a total of 500 sculptures to experience. Many of them are by Taylor, but this location also features sculptures by five other artists. It was officially opened in 2010, in an effort to protect Manchones Reef, the largest reef in Cancun.