The Cannes Underwater Museum envisioned by Jason deCaires Taylor houses monumental masks that emphasise the influence of local commune

The Underwater Museum in the water of Cannes built by Jason deCaires Taylor has now opened after more than 4 years of work and development. The museum houses a collection of six sculptures, each weighing 10 tons and measuring about 6.5 feet tall. 

Jason- A sculptor, environmentalist and photographer by passion and work constantly tries to dive deep in and understand the concepts of conservation and environmental activism in the submerged and tidal marine environments. The six works are based on portraits of the local community folks who had formed an integral part of his experience and journey that resulted in the creation of such works. They specifically include- Maurice, an 80-year-old local and Anouk- a nine-year-old primary school pupil which evidently ties together influences and impacts of people from varied age groups and professions. Each face is sectioned into two parts, depicting a “split mask,” a metaphor for the ocean: on the one hand, powerful and resilient; on the other, fragile and decaying—continuously degraded and polluted by human activity. 

Courtesy of jasondecairestaylor

The project involved a thorough clean-up of the waters wherein polluting matter like scrapped engines and pipelines were removed and detached from the boats making it safe and secure for divers and snorkelers while also preventing destruction by anchors to the seagrass meadows. 

The 6-10 feet designed artworks used pH-neutral materials to attract marine flora and fauna where it was placed in regions of white sand, between Posidonia seagrass meadows, located off the protected part of the island near Sainte-Marguerite, (one of the Lérins Islands). Furthermore, the pH neutrality factor crucially initiates natural growth and successive substitutions intended to understand and navigate the aesthetics of decay, rebirth and metamorphosis.

Jason’s work has been trying to create a shift and impact the concepts of Land art movement into the realm of the marine environment to motivate and encourage environmental awareness and responsibility while also improving one’s appreciation towards the natural wonder and beauty of the underwater world. He has successfully created the world’s first underwater sculpture park, situated off the west coast of Grenada in the West Indies – now also listed as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic. The park was largely impactful, as it then became instrumental in the government declaring the site a National Marine Protected Area.

Text by Nikitha Sunil, Contributor- Architecture+Design