Going to a gallery to see art is common, but putting on a bath suit before taking the trip is a slight detour from the norm. Yet, what else would one expect when visiting an underwater art gallery? That’s right –completely underwater. Now these aren’t art pieces sitting prettily at the bottom of a pool; these are artistic sculptures placed strategically on ocean floors. Talk about taking inspiration to a new level! To gain a better understanding as to why artists are taking to ocean floors as new, blank canvases, let’s look at two of the earliest underwater museums: Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park and Musa (Museo Subacuático de Arte).

Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park

Sculpture of person underwater, wearing a brimmed hat

Photo courtesy of SunCat, via flickr.com. Sculpture of La Diablesse by Jason deCaires Taylor located at the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park (November 2007).

Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park –located in Moilinere Bay, near St. Georges Island– is the world’s first underwater sculpture park, which was created in 2006 by Jason deCaires Taylor (“Biography;” “Meet the Artists”). Jason deCaires Taylor, an artist with an appreciation for the sea, creates sculptures that not only preserve and enhance marine life, but also lend to environment awareness and promote social change (“Biography”). Aside from Taylor, there are currently two other artist displayed at the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park: Troy Lewis and Rene Froehlich (“Meet the Artist”); with approximately 65 sculptures exhibited at the underwater park among the three of them. The idea for these sculptures to be embedded onto the bare, sandy patches of Moilinere Bay has more meaning than merely bringing art to a different platform. Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park acts as an artificial reef. Artificial reefs are reefs created by humans that are composed of either natural or man-made objects. In this case, the sculptures are made from a variety of materials including steel, concrete, etc. (“Sculptures”). In Moilinere Bay particularly, there has been storm damage and water activities that have endangered the natural coral reefs near the area (“Project: Grenada”). The sculptures, acting as artificial reefs, provide a new habitat for marine life. Although Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park is the first of its kind, it certainly isn’t the last. There are now more underwater art galleries, such as MUSA.

MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte)

group of statues standing together, facing different directions, on the ocean floor

Photo courtesy of Andy Blackledge, via flickr.com. Sculptures of The Silent Evolution by Jason deCaires Taylor located at MUSA (March 2013).

MUSA is an underwater contemporary museum of art found in the waters of Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and Punta Nizuc (“About Us”). This museum incorporates the natural, aquatic environment –coral and marine life– with the artistic sculptures to display the interaction among the two: a collaboration of art and environmental science (“About Us”).  MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) was founded by Jaime González Cano, Roberto Díaz Abraham, and Jason deCaires Taylor in 2009; acting as an artificial reef as well. In terms of MUSA, the sculptures exhibited are generally created from “specialized, non-acidic clay designed to support and promote the growth of the coral and marine life that live in it” (Lee). This artificial reef museum seeks to promote coral reef life by creating new habitat –the art sculptures–, as well as improve conditions for the surrounding, endangered natural reefs by attracting the myriad of visitors (numbers well over 750,000 each year) away from the natural reefs to the museum sites (“About Us”) –very similar to the circumstances of Moilinere Bay. Although there are only five artists exhibited at the museum –Jason deCaires Taylor, Karen Salinas Martinez, Roberto Diaz Abraham, Rodrigo Quinones Reyes, and Salvador Quiroz Ennis– there are over 500 sculptures and they’re not itty-bitty; these sculptures are life-size (“About Us”)!

There are two galleries at MUSA: Salon Manchones and Salon Nizuc (“About Us;” Lee). The Salon Nizuc gallery is in shallower waters (only 13 feet deep) than the Salon Manchones gallery, making this the perfect gallery to go snorkeling (Lee); however, if visitors are willing to suit up with scuba gear, they can dive 26 feet deep to see the sculptures of the Salon Manchones gallery (Lee). Aside from snorkeling and daytime or nighttime scuba diving, visitors can see the sculptures parasailing or on glass bottom boat tours (“Visit”)!

Only the Beginning

Although artificial reefs have been around for quite some time, underwater museums are still fairly new –and growing. Jason deCaires Taylor is currently in the process of creating another underwater museum that will be located in the Atlantic Ocean (“Biography”). It is a fascinating concept to have underwater museums that act as artificial reefs and a new source of recreation for us land dwellers. The art is constantly transforming with the aid of marine life, whether it’s the growth of new coral or different species inhabiting the sculptures. Therefore, the sculptures may look slightly different on each visit. If anything, underwater museums show that human interaction with marine life is constantly growing in new and exciting ways.

Sculpture of man, bending on ocean floor with head in the sand

Photo courtesy of Andy Blackledge, via flickr.com. Sculpture of The Banker by Jason deCaires Taylor located at MUSA (April 2014).

Sources:

“About Us.” MUSA: Museo Subacuático de Arte. Musa Cancun, n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.

“Biography.” Jason deCaires Taylor. Jason deCaires Taylor, n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.

Lee, Lexa W. “What Is the Underwater Museum in Cancun?” USA TODAY: Travel. USA TODAY, n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.

“Meet the Artist” Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park. Grenada Underwater Sculpture Management Inc (GUSMI), n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.

“Projects: Grenada.” Jason deCaires Taylor. Jason deCaires Taylor, n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.

“Sculptures.” Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park. Grenada Underwater Sculpture Management Inc (GUSMI), n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.

“Visit.” MUSA: Museo Subacuático de Arte. Musa Cancun, n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.

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Feature Photo: Photo courtesy of SunOfErat (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. [BLUB’s, street artist, graffiti of Mona Lisa underwater in Guicciardini, Florence]. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Florence_-_Graffiti_-_Mona_Lisa_Underwater.JPG>.

Photo One: Photo courtesy of SunCat [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)], via flickr.com. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/suncat/2091907821/>.

Photo Two: Photo courtesy of Andy Blackledge [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)], via flickr.com. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/hockeyholic/8601603296>.

Photo Three: Photo courtesy of Andy Blackledge [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)], via flickr.com. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/hockeyholic/13752174825>.