This is one museum you would have problems asking directions for. Simply because you won’t be able to find it anywhere on the surface of the Earth.
Museo Atlantico – The Atlantic Museum – is the first underwater art museum of Europe and the Atlantic Ocean, and can only be found 14 meters under the sea, off the coast of Lanzarote, Spain. The museum will open its doors – or rather its sparkling liquid surface – two weeks from now on February 25, as per a PBS NewsHour report.
Understandably, getting there would not be a walk in the park. You’ll need to be a snorkeler or, better still, a scuba diver, to be able to actually pay a visit. But if you do manage to pull it off, you’ll be in for some unprecedented times.
The Atlantic Museum is home to some of the most exciting sea sculptures in play currently. And they come straight from the imagination of British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, one of the most ambitious sculptors of our times.
According to Taylor, the underwater museum project is designed to “create a large-scale artificial reef to aggregate local fish species and increase marine biomass.”
The installations are in line with Taylor’s earlier artistic forays – people made of cement fixed to the seabed, frozen in a pose forever. They are all life-like, and the attention to detail is staggering.
Interestingly, the world above the water is continuously referenced in this underwater world. The current European refugee crisis, the selfie mania, the tablet obsession, the rise of an increasingly voyeuristic society… a parallel oceanic world peopled by folks we know, or have met or have seen somewhere, everyone just a wee bit transformed by the water.
And the natural question then, why water? Why couldn’t have all this been done simply on dry land, where people could have easily accessed and appreciated his art?
Taylor has eloquently replied to this at a TED Talks event last year.
“The ocean is the most incredible exhibition space an artist could ever wish for. You have amazing lighting effects changing by the hour, explosions of sand covering the sculptures in a cloud of mystery, a unique timeless quality and the procession of inquisitive visitors, each lending their own special touch to the site.”
These “inquisitive visitors” have been the moving force behind this project, as well as all of Taylor’s underwater projects. All his sculptures, once they go into the sea, become the property of the sea and of all its creatures.
“As new reefs form [on the sculptures], a new world literally starts to evolve, a world that continuously amazes me. It’s a bit of a cliché, but nothing man-made can ever match the imagination of nature.”
This is exactly what makes Taylor’s work so dynamic. It is never a single, fixed thing. The sea is constantly working on it, changing it, transforming it.
Let’s take a look at some of the amazing sculptures in Taylor’s new underwater museum.
The main attraction of the Atlantic Museum is The Rubicon, an installation showing a group of 35 people “walking towards a gate, a point of no return or a portal to another world”.
This is the faceless couple, busy taking an underwater selfie.
And these are the photographers, in a no-man’s land between “new technology” and “voyeurism”.
This is The Raft of Lampedusa, being lowered to the seabed. In Taylor’s words, The Raft is a “harrowing depiction of the ongoing humanitarian crisis, referencing French Romantic painter Théodore Géricault’s work: The Raft of the Medusa.”
And finally, the team (human and sculpture), before the journey to the bottom of the sea.
[Photo by Jason deCaires Taylor, used with permission]