Completely submerged under the Atlantic Ocean, Museo Atlántico is a striking reminder of humans’ ever-changing and often destructive impact on the natural world. And in a bit of irony, these manmade sculptures develop over time as nature affects them.
The underwater museum, the first of its kind in Europe, is situated off the coast of the Spanish island of Lanzarote, the easternmost of the Canary Islands. The oceanic exhibition is meant to send a message about conservation, exploring how to create an ecologically responsible interaction between humans and ocean life.
The sculptures, created by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, illustrate the impact of people’s behavior on the environment: Some feature a raft of refugees on an uncertain voyage; others show humans posing for selfies or taking pictures.
Taylor has also built artificial reefs that marine microorganisms attach to, which both attracts more coral growth and helps protect delicate natural coral reefs. The concrete in the sculptures is pH-neutral and nontoxic to marine life, meaning it serves as the perfect base for microorganisms to inhabit and form artificial reefs where biodiversity skyrockets in once-barren areas.
Seventy sculptures are already in place, and by the completion of the ten phases of installations it’s anticipated that number will bubble up to around 300. In essence this unique museum is itself an evolving ecosystem, a collection of living artworks that change over time with their environment, just as nature changes over time by the actions of humans.