Undersea Attractions: Underwater Sculpture Parks in Grenada and Mexico
I have strolled through many museums, admiring artwork and sculptures from renowned artists, but my visit to an underwater museum, outfitted in SCUBA gear, was a first for me. Last July, my husband and I visited Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Park during our stay at the all-inclusive, Sandals LaSource Grenada and found it to be a highlight of our week’s dives.
Located a short boat ride away from the resort in Molinere Bay, the undersea sculpture gallery was opened to the public in May 2006 and will soon mark its 10th anniversary. The world’s first such underwater art installation is now listed as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic.
Jason deCaires Taylor, the creator of this unique, inspiring and ever-changing exhibition, is not only a prolific sculptor, but an award-winning underwater photographer, naturalist and dive instructor.
Life-size statues were cast from a special type of cement that encourages reef growth, so algae, coral and sponges begin to cover the sculptures and become part of the living reef. The sculptures — 65 in the beginning stages, and now numbering around 100 — were attached to the ocean floor at shallow depths ranging from five to 30 feet and spread throughout a half mile of protected marine area, making it possible for snorkelers and glass bottom boat passengers to view them, as well as scuba divers who are able to swim among them.
One of the most interesting aspects of the underwater gallery is that real-life models were used for the sculptures involving people, such as the circle of children holding hands called “Vicissitudes,” meaning: the quality or state of being changeable.
“The Lost Correspondent” sculpture was the beginning of it all — the first to be sunk and attached to the sea floor. It shows a man sitting at his desk…“his hands hovering over the typewriter, poised in eternal deliberation. He is a forgotten relic, like his typewriter—an antique, superseded by modern technology.” This really spoke to me as a writer since I began my career working on an IBM Selectric typewriter, now also a relic.
A “Christ of the Deep” sculpture was added in 2011. It s a replica of the Christ of the Deep statue which stands on the Carenage in Grenada’s capital, St. Georges. “The Nutmeg Princess,” an 11-foot tall sculpture inspired by the 1992 book, The Nutmeg Princess, by Grenadian author/playwright Richardo Keens-Douglas, became the underwater park’s most recent addition in 2015. It depicts a fairy tale princess emerging from a large nutmeg pod, reaching to the heavens with a handful of Grenada’s most famed spice, the nutmeg.
Slideshow of more photos taken on our dive:
Substantial reef damage caused by Hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2004 and 2005 was one reason the project was undertaken by Taylor, along with the fact that 40% of our natural coral reefs have been lost in the past several decades.
On his website, www.underwatersculpture.com, Taylor says his works are designed “to promote the regeneration of marine life and to use sculpture as a means of conveying hope and awareness of the plight of our oceans.”
More information about Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Park can be found on the website of the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Management Inc (GUSMI), a non-profit volunteer based group who, with the endorsement of the Grenada Board of Tourism and Fisheries Department, is working to rejuvenate and develop the sculptures in Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Park. The group has a Facebook page, Grenada Underwater Sculpture, as does Jason deCaires Taylor.
A marine park entrance fee is charged to divers ($2 USD/day or $10 USD annually); snorkelers and boat riders pay $1 USD per day.
Project #2: Cancun’s Underwater Sculpture Museum
The Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park was Jason deCaires Taylor’s first project but it is by no means his last. An underwater museum, MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) — the Cancun Underwater Sculpture Museum — was opened in 2010 in the waters surrounding Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc, Mexico.
I was privileged to be able to visit it last August (2015), less than a month after scuba diving among the sculptures in Grenada. Due to its size, there is no way it can all be seen in one dive. I would love to go back and do another dive to see more of the sculptures.
The Cancun Underwater Sculpture Museum consists of nearly 500 permanent life-size sculptures and is one of the largest and most ambitious underwater artificial art attractions in the world. Most of the models were fishermen and others living in the nearby village of Puerto Morelos. Other artists have also contributed to the project, which involved collaboration between Taylor, the Cancun and Isla Mujeres’ Nautical Associations, and other private sector supporters. The layout is divided into two galleries, one suitable for both divers and snorkelers and a shallower one for snorkelers only.
“The Silent Evolution” (2012), Taylor’s most ambitious work here, consists of 500 sculptures of real-life casts of individuals.
“The Anthropocene” is a full-size replica of a Volkswagen Beetle. It was designed to give lobsters and other crustaceans a place to hide.
“The Banker” (below, one of several spread across this stretch of sand) depicts a banker with his head in the sand, reminiscent of the recent world-wide recession and economic collapse.
Visiting an art gallery underwater is a totally different experience. As Taylor says, “Taking art off of the white walls of a gallery offers the viewer a sense of discovery and participation.”
Slideshow of more photos from our dive:
If your travels take you to Grenada or Cancun, don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of these amazing underwater attractions.
Other projects in the works:
Jason deCaires Taylor is currently working on a third underwater sculpture park in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, which will be Europe’s first subaquatic museum. Visitors are permitted to view the first set of sculptures that have already been submerged. A completion date of summer 2017 is anticipated.
He has also made an impact in the Bahamas with Ocean Atlas, the world’s largest underwater sculpture. Installed under the sea off the coast of New Providence, it is a 60-ton, 18-foot-tall statue of a young Bahamian girl who appears to be holding up the ocean, much like the mythological Titan Atlas shouldered the burden of the heavens.
Commissioned by the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation, Ocean Atlas is the first of a series of works that are planned for an underwater sculpture garden that will be known as the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden after the organization’s founder.
Watch the TED talk video below to hear Jason deCaires Taylor talk about his work and the vision he has for the future. I am inspired by him and think you will be, too!