In 2009 a monumental underwater museum called MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) was formed in the waters surrounding Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc. The project founded by Jaime Gonzalez Cano of The National Marine Park, Roberto Diaz of The Cancun Nautical Association and Jason deCaires Taylor consists of over 500 permanent life-size sculptures and is one of the largest and most ambitious underwater artificial art attractions in the world.
And then along came this 18-foot-tall female Ocean Atlas sculpture, kneeling on the ocean floor off the coast of the Bahamas is not the work of fiction by artist Jason deCaires Taylor, his ‘hardest ever commission’.
Part of The Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden, the artwork was created by Jason deCaires Taylor, who previously put 500 life-sized sculptures in the waters surrounding Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc.
Organised and curated by the Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation, the project aims to relieve pressure on natural reefs, which can be hotspots for environmentally-damaging tourism.
‘The weight loading of 60 tonnes meant that the piece had to be created in sections and assembled underwater. Everything is a hundred times harder in the sea and getting precision parts together underwater was a huge challenge.
‘The technique I used incorporated digital upscaling and a CNC routed mould which had never been done before in a marine environment, so it was the first time and quite nerve wracking”, admitted the artist recently.
About Jason deCaires Taylor:
Born in 1974 to an English father and Guyanese mother, Taylor grew up in Europe and Asia, where he spent much of his early childhood exploring the coral reefs of Malaysia. Educated in the South East of England, Taylor graduated from the London Institute of Arts in 1998 with a BA Honours in Sculpture and went on to become a fully qualified diving instructor and underwater naturalist. With over 18 years diving experience under his belt, Taylor is also an award winning underwater photographer, famous for his dramatic images, which capture the metamorphosing effects of the ocean on his evolving sculptures. In 2006, Taylor founded and created the world’s first underwater sculpture park. Situated off the coast of Grenada in the West Indies it is now listed as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic. His latest creation is MUSA (Museo Subacuatico de Arte), a monumental museum with a collection of over 500 of his sculptural works, submerged off the coast of Cancun, Mexico; 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 relieving pressure on natural resources.
Taylor’s art is like no other, a paradox of creation, constructed to be assimilated by the ocean and transformed from inert objects into living breathing coral reefs, portraying human intervention as both positive and life-encouraging. Numerous publications and documentaries have featured his extraordinary work, including the BBC, CNN, USA Today, the Guardian, Vogue, New Scientist and the Discovery Channel, yet nothing can quite do justice to the ephemeral nature of his art; for each actual visit to his sites is both unique and subject to the dynamic, fluctuating environment of the ocean.
His pioneering public art projects are not only examples of successful marine conservation, but inspirational works of art that seek to encourage environmental awareness, instigate social change and lead us to appreciate the breathtaking natural beauty of the underwater world.
Taylor’s studio is currently based in Lanzarote part of the Canary Islands.