Location (see map): Las Coloradas, Lanzarote, Atlantic Ocean
Installation Date: 2016
Museo Atlántico is the first underwater art museum in Europe and the Atlantic Ocean. It is situated within Lanzarote’s UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and is accessible to divers and snorkelers. The monumental project took over three years to plan and construct and includes over 300 life-size casts placed on an area of previously barren seabed of 50m x 50m. The museum was officially inaugurated in January 2017 by the President of Lanzarote, Pedro San Gines.
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 is 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.
The works create a strong visual dialogue between art and nature. They question the commodification and delineation of the world’s natural resources and raise the alarm of the current threats facing the world’s oceans. The installations highlight the social and political divisions within today’s society.
The Raft of Lampedusa carries 13 refugees towards an unknown future. It draws its inspiration from Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa, which represents the vain hope of shipwrecked sailors. Despite being able to see the rescue vessel on the horizon, they are abandoned to their fate – much as refugees are today. Even as raft after raft of refugees is lost beneath the waves of the Mediterranean, as the bodies of children wash up on European shores, Fortress Europe has withdrawn rescue operations, built barriers, turned away.
Taylor cast refugee Abdel Kader as the figurehead of The Raft of Lampedusa. Kader comes from Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara, and made his own perilous journey by boat to Lanzarote when he was only 13 years old.
Crossing the Rubicon features 35 people walking towards an underwater wall, unaware that they are heading to a point of no return. They are looking down or at their phones, in an almost dreamlike state. This is a recurrent theme in Taylor’s work – we are sleepwalking towards catastrophe, unable to take stock of our own impact on the natural world and therefore our own survival.
The wall stretches 30 meters long and 4 meters high and contains a single rectangular doorway at its centre. It is intended to be a monument to absurdity, a dysfunctional barrier in the middle of a vast fluid three-dimensional space, which can be bypassed in any direction. It emphasizes that the notions of ownership and territories are irrelevant to the natural world. In times of increasing patriotism and protectionism, the wall reminds us that we cannot segregate our oceans, air, climate or wildlife as we do our land and possessions. We forget we are all an integral part of a living system at our peril.
The Human Gyre consists of over 200 life-size human figures in an oceanic gyre. The piece embodies our naked vulnerability to the ocean’s inherent power, and our fragility in the face of its cycles and immense force. It provides the oxygen we breathe, it regulates our climate and it provides a vital source of nutrition to millions of people.
View The Making of the Jolateros in Museo Atlantico by Jason deCaires Taylor here.
Commissioned by: Centre of Art, Culture and Tourism (CACT), Government of Lanzarote
Materials: Stainless steel, pH neutral cement, basalt and aggregates
To see more images of Jason deCaires Taylor’s Museo Atlántico visit the full gallery.
As soon as we sink them, they belong to the sea.Jason deCaires Taylor