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The Underwater Sculptor par Excellence: Jason deCaires Taylor in Seven installations

Jason deCaires Taylor is an English sculptor specializing in the creation of contemporary underwater sculptures, which develop into artificial coral reefs over time. His latest creation is MUSA (Museo Subacuatico de Arte), a monumental museum with a collection of over 500 of his sculptural works, which is submerged off the coast of Cancun, Mexico, The piece was described by Forbes as one of the world’s most unique travel destinations. Both these ambitious, permanent public works have a practical, functional aspect, facilitating positive interactions between people and fragile underwater habitats while at the same time relieving pressure on natural resources.

M.U.S.A. Museo Subacuático de Arte

Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Mexico

Depth: 4-8m Installation Date: 2009

Materials: Stainless steel, pH neutral cement, basalt and aggregates

M.U.S.A. (Museo Subacuático de Arte) is one of the largest and most ambitious underwater art attractions in the world. It features over 500 permanent life-size sculptures created by Jason deCaires Taylor.

The museum is divided into two galleries. Salon Machones is eight meters deep and suitable for both divers and snorkelers. Salon Nizuc is four meters deep and only permitted for snorkeling.

In total, the installations occupy an area of over 420 square meters of previously barren seabed. Today, the museum forms a complex reef structure for marine life to colonize, inhabit, and increase biomass on a grand scale.

Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park Molinere Beauséjour Marine Protected Area, Grenada

Depth: 5m Installation Date: 2006

Materials: pH neutral cement, stainless steel

Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park was the first of Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater gardens. It was widely acclaimed as the first of its kind. The site is now listed as one of National Geographic’s 25 Wonders of the World. The 75 works cover an area of 800 square meters and are located in a series of sand patches and gullies between natural rock formations. At depths of 5-8 meters, they are accessible by scuba diving, snorkeling, and glass bottom boats with departures from the capital St. Georges and from Grand Anse. Both locations are just a short boat ride away.

Alluvia The River Stour, Canterbury, England Depth: 1.5m to 80cm (depending on rainfall) Installation Date: 2008

Materials: Cement, glass resin, recycled glass

Alluvia, set in the historic city of Canterbury in Kent, is a sculpture consisting of two female figures, viewable from the Westgate Bridge. The underwater sculptures lie along the river flow, submerged and fixed into the bed of the River Stour. At night, the works are internally illuminated. The title Alluvia relates to the alluvial deposits of sand left by the rise and fall of the river’s water levels. The accumulated algae on the surface of the sculptures acts as an environmental barometer, as it is an indicator of pollution within the county’s waterways from chemicals and phosphates used in modern agricultural farming.


Sirru Fen Fushi, Maldives Depth: 3-5m Installation Date: 2018

Materials: 316 Marine stainless steel, pH neutral cement, jesmonite

Coralarium is situated in the clear shallow waters of the largest lagoon in the Shaviyani Atoll on the island of Sirru Fen Fushi. The work is a semi-submerged tidal gallery that exhibits a series of sculptural artworks on the skyline, on the inter-tidal waterline, and in the seabed. At first glance, the glistening metallic structure appears as a mirage on the horizon. Located in a remote turquoise Maldivian lagoon, figures come into view on a shining cube, taking in their Indian Ocean surroundings from their elevated vantage point. On closer inspection, the figures reveal themselves as a series of sculptures, encrusted with the coral of the lagoon.


BASK Gili Meno, Indonesia Depth: 4m Installation Date: 2017

Materials: Stainless steel, pH neutral cement, basalt and aggregates

Nest depicts a circle of 48 life-size figures off the coast of Gili Meno, a small island between Bali and Lombok in Indonesia that is famed for its crystal clear waters and turtle population. In the hauntingly beautiful work, embracing couples encircle yet more figures curled up on the seafloor. The circular formation evokes time and continuum. The interlocking pieces connect to provide a platform for marine life to colonize and inhabit. Forty per cent of the world’s coral reefs have been lost over the past few decades, and scientists predict more reefs are at risk. Nest aims to remind visitors of the many fragile treasures beneath the sea. This sculpture paves the way for delicate hard corals and eventually a fully established reef will form.

Ocean Atlas Nassau, Bahamas Depth: 5m Installation date: 2014

Materials: Stainless steel, pH neutral cement, basalt and aggregates

Ocean Atlas is the largest single sculpture ever to be deployed underwater. It reaches five meters up from the sea floor to the surface and weighs over sixty tons. Due to the sheer scale of the sculpture, it had to be assembled underwater in sections using an ambitious new technique developed and engineered by Jason deCaires Taylor. At low tide, the work reflects a mirror image on the underside of the sea’s surface. It is a dramatic increase in scale from Taylor’s previous works and ensures that even after substantial coral growth the figure will still remain highly recognizable. A solar light and flag are located on the highest point of the sculpture to aid marine navigation.

Museo Atlántico Las Coloradas, Lanzarote, Atlantic Ocean Depth: 14m Installation Date: 2016

Materials: Stainless steel, pH neutral cement, basalt and aggregates

The monumental project took over three years to plan and construct, and it includes over 300 life-size casts placed on a 50m x 50m area of previously barren seabed.

Over time, the pH neutral concrete structures become living sculptures, with the overall theme and layout representing an underwater botanical garden. The formations are all configured so that they aggregate fish on a large scale, and the casts become anchors for new coral growth, attracting local fish species and creating new eco-systems. The sculptures are frequented by rare angel sharks, schools of barracudas and sardines, octopus, marine sponges, and the occasional butterfly ray. While the permanent installation was designed to last for hundreds of years, it will be an ever-changing exhibition as marine life changes and transforms the surfaces of the sculptures.

All the images are copyrighted by Jason DeCaires Taylor.


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