Life-size sculptures submerged under water, accessible primarily to divers and snorkelers, are part tourist attraction and part ecological experiment in Jason deCaires Taylor’s innovative art installations. “Rather than seeing [the world]as a hidden, endless resource that we can treat as we please, I’ve tried to change our relationship to it and transform it into a more intimate space,” says deCaires Taylor, a British environmentalist and sculptor.
As an avid diver who has witnessed coral decline around the world, deCaires Taylor was inspired to explore how sculpture can be functional as well as aesthetic by designing man-made reefs. These underwater gardens, created by deCaires Taylor, draw attention to the enormous threats to marine life – from rising sea temperatures to pollution – with stunning works of art that also serve as artificial harbors where corals can regenerate and new ecosystems can thrive.
About 25 percent of the ocean’s marine life depends on healthy reefs for shelter and food, but 40 percent of the world’s coral reefs have been damaged in recent decades by factors such as global warming, overfishing and irresponsible tourism, and scientists warn that more are at risk.
With the creation of the world’s first underwater sculpture park in Grenada in 2006 and over 1,000 underwater artworks around the world, deCaires Taylor has artfully highlighted the threats to our oceans while actively helping to create new life in them.
Immerse yourself in Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater art exhibits from around the world.
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The Silent Evolution
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
“Many of my works are ordinary scenes that you see in an earthly world, but if you drop them into another world, you can think a little bit deeper and reflect in a different way,” says deCaires Taylor.
“The Silent Evolution” is an underwater art exhibition off the coast of Cancún. More than 400 life-size underwater statues were cast by locals from a nearby fishing village and are now immortalized and guarding their oceans. The ten-year-old man-made reef is already home to more than 2,000 young corals.
Off the coast of Nassau stands the largest underwater sculpture in the world, shallow enough for both snorkelers and divers to view. This 60-ton, 16-foot-high statue of a young girl from the Bahamas seems to hold up the ocean, just like its Greek namesake Atlas, which mythology says floated the sky.
Underwater Sculpture Park Molinere
Grenada, West Indies
These 75 submerged works of art were installed in 2006 after the Moline Bay was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. They formed the world’s first underwater sculpture park and were named one of the 25 wonders of the world by National Geographic. It now provides a new base for the reproduction of marine life and also attracts divers, snorkelers and glass-bottom boats away from the more sensitive reefs nearby.
Playa Blanca, Canary Islands
This first underwater art museum in Europe, which opened in 2016, is open to both divers and snorkelers. The underwater museum houses more than 300 life-size casts, including the Rubicon 35 figures, which approach an underwater wall and seem to sleepwalk through nature’s demise and climate change.
The rising tide
London, United Kingdom.
Unlike most of deCaires Taylor’s work, these sculptures can be seen from land, on the banks of the Thames, which appears at low tide. Within sight of the Parliament Building, they are a nod to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and remind us of rising sea levels and the denial of climate change.
These floating sculptures, commissioned by a children’s art center, are observed by children in and on the Oslo Fjords – visibly under water and with a glass-bottomed canoe – while the figures are colonized by marine life. For divers who dive deeper into the estuary, the fresh water gives way to green salt water, so that the sculptures are washed around by fascinating water filters.
Sirru Fen Fushi, Maldives
This tidal art installation from 2018 – a metal cube structure – is partially submerged in a clear, shallow lagoon. Snorkelers and divers can see underwater sculptures in it or climb up to the roof where more human-like figures rest. As the tides recede, more of the cube is visible, and over time it will become the foundation for a new ecosystem.
Gili Meno, Indonesia
On a small island near Bali, known for clear water and turtles, lie these 48 life-size cement figures. The hugging couples, which encircle other coiled figures on the sea floor, are home to teeming marine life and regenerating corals. Divers, snorkelers and glass-bottom boats resting on the seabed and only 13 feet deep visit them daily.
Museum of Underwater Art
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
deCaires Taylor’s latest project, which is expected to be open to the public in early 2020, aims to rehabilitate parts of the world’s largest reef system. Works in the underwater museum include a partially submerged figure that changes color as the sea warms and can be seen from the shore, and even an underwater greenhouse covered with coral.
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