Cannes Underwater Museum: The first Underwater Art Gallery in Europe

The Cannes Underwater Museum is the first submerged art installation in the Mediterranean Sea; a museum created from six gigantic sculptures immersed near the seabed of the island of Sainte-Marguerite just off the French coast of Cannes. 

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The Underwater Museum of Cannes is Jason de Caires Taylor’s first installation in the Mediterranean Sea and took over four years to develop. It features a series of six monumental three-dimensional portraits, each over two metres in height and ten tons in weight. Placed at a depth of between two and three metres, these artworks rest on areas of white sand, in-between oscillating posidonia sea grass meadows in the protected southern part of the island. The shallow depth and close proximity to shore make the site easily accessible, and the crystal-clear waters provide ideal conditions for snorkelling. This is the only museum you can access in a socially-distant way, wearing a scuba mask over your eyes rather than a mask over your mouth. The six works are based on portraits of local members of the community, covering a range of ages and professions, for example, Maurice -an 80 year old local fisherman- and Anouk -a 9- year old primary school pupil. Each face is significantly upscaled and sectioned into two parts, the outer part resembling a mask.

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The theme of masks connects to the history of Île Sainte Marguerite, well known as the location where the Man with the Iron Mask was imprisoned.

Through its famous annual film festival Cannes is well known for its relationship with the performing arts. The location of the sculptures was previously an area of disused marine infrastructure. Part of the project was a significant clearing of the site, removing marine debris such as old engines and pipelines to create a space for the installation of artworks which have been specifically designed, using Ph neutral materials, to attract marine fauna and flora. The site has now been cordoned off from boats, making it safe for snorkellers and divers, and preventing damage by anchors to the seagrass meadows. Posidonia grass is a vital habitat area and is sometimes referred to as the lungs of the ocean for the vast amount of oxygen it creates. With all his projects, Jason aims to draw attention to the sea as a fragile biosphere in urgent need of protection. The split mask is a metaphor for the ocean. One side of the mask depicts strength and resilience, the other fragility and decay. From land, we see the surface, calm and serene, or powerful and majestic. This is the view of the mask of the sea. However, below the surface is a fragile, finely-balanced ecosystem - one which has been continuously degraded and polluted over the years by human activity.

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"The works were created by the British environmental sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, famous for creating new habitats for the restoration of marine fauna and flora in multiple locations throughout the world."

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