Off the coast of the Canary Islands, 45 feet beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean lies Museo Atlántico, Europe’s first underwater museum. Featuring a series of sculptures designed by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, the museum first opened to the public a year ago, offering tours to divers looking for an experience that’s out of this world.
Impressively, this is not the world’s first underwater museum. The Museo Subacuático de Arte in Cancún, Mexico, which opened in 2013, features a majority of works crafted by Taylor, a pioneer in underwater art.
A diving instructor and naturalist by trade, Taylor began making underwater art in 2006, creating works made of pH-neutral concrete, which avoid altering the acidity of the ocean. His sculptures of people engaged in scenes of every day life, from rowing a boat to taking selfies, were modeled on the inhabitants of the nearby island of Lanzarote.
Museo Atlántico is being built in several phases. The first, which opened last March, consists of six different groups of sculptures for divers to visit. The first group, Los Jolateras, features children in brass boats. The Rubicon features 35 human figures all facing the same direction—towards the point of no return. There is also a sculpture of the Raft of Lampedusa, a reference to the current refugee crisis, as well as a collection of half-human, half-cactus hybrid figures that reflect the harmonious co-existence of humanity and nature.
When complete, Museo Atlántico will feature a total of 300 individual sculptures and several large-scale installations. The museum is more than a tourist destination, however. It is designed to raise awareness about the vulnerability of the marine habitat during this critical era of climate change.
As Crave previously reported, global warming has killed off life on the Great Barrier Reef. While there are notable efforts to rebuild the reefs around the Florida Keys, more awareness is needed to help protect the oceans from the ongoing effects of industrlalization.
The Museo Atlántico is the perfect example of a successful collaboration between humankind and the environment. By building an artificial reef, marine life has been enhanced at the site. Biomass has increased by 300% in less than a year, transforming what was once an arid area into an underwater paradise. Barracuda, octopi, angel sharks, butterfly stingrays, and dolphins travel from far and wide to check it out—providing more than just artwork for visitors to enjoy.
All photos: Sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor, courtesy of Museo Atlántico.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.