To date, more than 450 sculptures of all shapes and sizes have been installed in the Museo Subacuatico de Arte (Museum of Underwater Art) in Cancun. Since its inauguration in 2010, the project has drawn an increasing amount of international attention, as the number of underwater sculptures continues to grow and existing pieces evolve and become a genuine coral reef.
“Many of the artworks, all part of ‘The Silent Evolution project,’ are unrecognizable today after coral, sea urchins and other marine life have taken them over as their new home,” writes the UK Daily Mail. “Over time the works have become encrusted with hundreds of luridly-coloured sea sponges, spiny sea urchins and marine plants called hydroids, capable of delivering a nasty sting when touched.”
Founded by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor just offshore in Cancun, which is one of the world’s top vacation destinations, all pieces are fashioned after real everyday people, including shop owners, school teachers and fishermen. Positioned approximately 8-10 metres below the surface, visitors have varied reactions to the installation, which can be euphoric but also a bit startling.
“They are made from inert cement, but when you see the skin of capillaries and tubular networks of the marine life and sponges colonizing them, it makes them feel immortal,” stated DeCaires Taylor in a recent interview with the Daily Mail. “When I place them underwater it is the beginning of their lifecycle. For me they only come alive when they have their underwater patina.”
Each of the works is given a name by the artist, who recently unveiled a series of new additions, including No Turning Back, which is a figure of a woman hunkered down to represent the dangers faced by many of the world’s coral reefs. But perhaps most striking is the new piece entitled Self-Immolation which shows a lone “burning” figure in reference to the extreme practice of setting oneself on fire in political protest. Remarkably, the sculpture will slowly be overtaken by bright yellow live fire coral, which gives the visual impression of a man on fire.
Situated in Mexico’s National Marine Park, the museum hopes to promote coral and other marine life and will eventually occupy an area of more than 420 square metres of what was previously barren seabed. With more than 750,000 visitors each year, the installations are accessible by either diving or snorkeling.
Have you ever visited a natural or man-made coral reef? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below!