Off the coast of West Africa, the Spanish island of Lanzarote sparkles in the bright midday sun, with azure Atlantic Ocean waves crashing against its shore. Already known for its lava fields and extraordinary geology, the island’s attractions will soon extend far beyond anything you can find above ground. Recently, several eerie, life-like statues were dropped to the bottom of the ocean floor.
Museo Atlantico, the first underwater sculpture museum in Europe and the Atlantic, consists of 400 sculptures, all of which are the work of British artist Jason deCaires Taylor – known for creating similar installations in Mexico, the Bahamas, and most recently, the Thames. Like many of Taylor’s past works, the Museo Atlantico is intended to spark a conversation.
The Raft of Lampedusa sculpture, for example, is a play on Romantic painter Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. “Drawing parallels between the abandonment suffered by sailors in his shipwreck scene and the current refugee crisis, the work is not intended as a tribute or memorial to the many lives lost but as a stark reminder of the collective responsibility of our now global community,” Taylor wrote on his Facebook page.
The Rubicon – a group of 35 human figures frozen mid-walk beneath the waves – centres on climate change and signifies the point of no return.
The theme of conservation is not new to Taylor. Built from pH-neutral marine cement, his sculptures are meant to represent the relationship between humans and nature, and on a deeper level, the harmony between life and art. They were also deliberately created to attract sea creatures, allowing for the growth of coral in order to breathe much-needed life back into the barren seas.
The museum officially opens for scuba divers and snorkelers on 25 February.