Dive into the clear blue waters off the coast of Lanzarote and you could find yourself face-to-face with an eerie crowd of motionless humanlike figures. These hauntingly beautiful sculptures are the work of artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who recently installed the first phase of his incredible underwater concrete artworks for Museo Atlantico, Europe’s first undersea sculpture museum in the Canary Islands. The museum’s unique and permanent collection will raise awareness of the threats facing our world’s oceans as well as the ongoing refugee crisis, while promoting the growth of a large-scale artificial reef.
Located 15 meters beneath the surface, the contemporary Museo Atlantico will feature approximately 300 eco-friendly sculptures as well as an underwater botanical garden filled with sculptural hybrids of people and native Lanzarote plants. One of the most striking installations is ‘The Raft of Lampedusa,’ a sunken boat carrying 13 refugees. The artwork is a modern interpretation of Théodore Géricault’s 1818 French Romanticist oil painting ‘The Raft of Medusa’ that depicts the horrific scene following the wreckage of the French naval frigate Méduse.
The Museo Atlantico’s main installation is ’The Rubicon,’ which comprises a group of 35 people—the figures are inspired by Lanzarote citizens, many of who wield smartphones and electronics to symbolize the “Instagram generation”— walking towards a wall, described by the curators as “a point of no return or a portal to another world.”
These magnificent underwater pieces aren’t Taylor’s first installations. As a British artist, diver, and naturalist, he has been creating underwater art for over a decade. His largest-scale work to date can be found at Museo Subacuático de Arte, the world’s first underwater museum, which features The Silent Evolution, a piece with approximately 500 statues submerged 26 feet in the Caribbean off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. Cast in pH-neutral marine cement, each statue can last for up to 300 years and support multiple forms of life, attracting the growth of coral and other creatures.
The Museo Atlantico will be open to visitors starting February 25, 2016 and will be accessible to snorkelers and divers.
Images via Jason deCaires Taylor