A surreal sight now awaits snorkellers and divers off the coast of the small French island of Île Sainte-Marguerite: a collection of huge grey faces, all with their eyes shut.
The cement sculptures have been installed on the seafloor as part of a new underwater ‘museum’ by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor near the city of Cannes. Now open to the public, the free exhibit makes for a calming (and eerily beautiful) antidote to the razzle-dazzle usually associated with this particularly glitzy corner of the French Riviera.
The sculptures portray six locals, including an 80-year-old fisherman, an entrepreneur, a curator and some schoolchildren. Each is six foot tall and weighs a whopping ten tons.
The aim of the project, which was funded by Cannes town hall, is to underline the plight of the world’s seas and oceans. ‘I think that there’s a danger when we look at the ocean [because] it looks robust, powerful, untouchable,’ the artist told Architectural Digest. ‘When what’s happening beneath is unprecedented, it’s extremely fragile.’
And the exhibit goes beyond just sending out an admirable message – it’s doing its bit to help protect the seas, too. Boats have been banned from the surrounding area and it’s hoped that this will help replenish the posidonia seagrass meadows so integral to the Mediterranean’s complex ecosystem.
So how do you actually go about visiting the sculptures? Well, there’s no entry fee nor even entrance to speak of – you simply bring along a snorkel and dive down to check the works out yourself. As deCaires Taylor says: ‘This is one way to see art in a socially-distant way.’
Like your art underwater? Then you should know that there’s now a museum in the Great Barrier Reef.
And this ancient shipwreck in Greece has been turned into a museum too.