There’s more to Lanzarote, the easternmost of the Spanish Canary Islands, than meets the eye. Dive beneath the waves to come face-to-face with over 400 sculptures and statues propped on the sea bed. This isn’t some long-forgotten treasure from a shipwreck, but a new art installation collectively titled the Museo Atlantico, the first underwater museum in Europe and the Atlantic Ocean.
Snorkellers and scuba divers can explore British artist Jason deCaires Taylor’s eerie submarine exhibition that rests about 14m under the sea’s surface. DeCaires Taylor used pH-neutral marine cement in the hopes that eventually, the statues will attract local marine life and become a thriving artificial coral reef. He has had success with similar underwater exhibits in Mexico.
The art is intended to start a conversation about the ties between man and environment, while also shining a light on contemporary world issues like climate change and the refugee crisis in Europe. Raft of Lampedusa is a sculpted large boat upon which refugees sprawl in attitudes ranging from exhaustion to alertness. It draws parallels between the recent emigrations from Africa and the Middle East, and the 19th-century painting The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault, on the desperate, shipwrecked sailors of a French frigate that set out to colonise Senegal in 1816. In The Rubicon, 35 people stand frozen in mid-stride, a metaphorical point of no return due to unchecked global warming.
DeCaires Taylor used real humans as models while creating his works at his studio near the island’s Rubicon Harbour. “Humans only have empathy when they see something of themselves,” he told The Guardian. “I intentionally made [the figures] very everyday; they all have clothes on—it’s us.” One of the sculptures is of a couple taking a selfie.
The museum opened to the public this February. For more details, visit the Museo Atlantico Facebook page, or email email@example.com. Take a look at the beautiful statues below:
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