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A new way to see art?

We meet the sub-aquatic art pioneer planning Europe’s first underwater art museum off Lanzarote

  • A new way to see art?
  • A new way to see art?
  • A new way to see art?
  • A new way to see art?
  • A new way to see art?
  • A new way to see art?
  • A new way to see art?
  • A new way to see art?
  • A new way to see art?
  • A new way to see art?
  • A new way to see art?

Deep under the waters of Cancún in the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find something extraordinary – headless businessmen kneeling beside their briefcases; an overweight, near-naked man watching TV; a crying figure with coral for hair; a crowd of 400 haunting figures, praying, mourning, waiting, hoping…

These phenomenal creations are the work of Jason deCaires Taylor, a British artist and pioneer of sub-aquatic art. In 2006, he founded the world’s first permanent underwater art installation at Grenada in the Caribbean and went on to develop the Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA), off the coast of Cancún in the Gulf of Mexico, which features more than 500 sculptures from Taylor and other artists.

Now he’s turned his sights on Lanzarote. Having moved to Playa Blanca this year, he’s working on the Museo Atlántico, Europe’s first underwater art museum, which is due to open in 2016, 50m off the coast, with a series of installations built around an underwater botanical garden. Visitors will be able to see the work by submarine, glass-bottomed boat or by scuba diving and snorkelling.

As with all Taylor’s work, though, it won’t just be about plonking concrete in the sea. The 39-year-old artist is also a scuba-diving instructor, marine conservationist and award-winning underwater photographer, and his works are as much about creating alternative coral reefs as they are about art. He creates his “life-casts” using normal people, then crafts the work from pH-neutral concrete, fibreglass rebar and broken shards of coral from damaged reefs. The works are designed specifically so they can evolve as reefs, with even the folds of a woman’s evening gown designed so that fish can live in them.

“My works hopefully demonstrate how human intervention can be positive and life-enhancing,” says Taylor, who honed his chops as a teenage graffiti artist and later a church stone carver.

He finds his models in cafés and bars, and takes two hours coating them in alginate to form highly detailed casts. He also does land-based sculptures, including a recent series of temporary figures marching across Lanzarote’s distinctive volcanic landscapes.

The funding for the Museo Atlántico comes from the foundation of art dealer and collector Helge Achenbach, along with the island’s governing body, which wants to build on the legacy of famous local architect César Manrique and reposition Lanzarote as a cultural destination.  

As for Taylor, he says he was drawn to the “primeval quality of Lanzarote’s landscapes, and how that extends under the sea,” but says the evolution process will be different to that in Cancún. “The higher the sea temperature, the more rapid the growth of formations,” he says. “At Cancún, it was just months before the sculptures became encrusted with algae, sponges and other marine organisms. Here the process will be much more gradual.” He expects that his Lanzarote sculptures will become coated in white calcium, giving them a “Pompeii-esque look”.

“I’m making the sculptures more individual in shape and expression, because I’m expecting they will retain their character for longer here,” says Taylor, who will have the works cast in a boatyard before being winched onto the sandy seabed. Expect the spectacular.
 
Norwegian flies to Lanzarote from London – and Oslo and Stockholm from October. Book flights, a hotel and a rental car at norwegian.com


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