The Underwater Art Museum
Off the coast of the island of Sainte-Marguerite, you’ll find one of the world’s only underwater art installations — the underwater “Eco Museum”, by award-winning British artist Jason deCaires Taylor.
The subjects of the sculptures are based on portraits of local community members covering a range of ages, including an 80-year-old fisherman named Maurice and a 9-year-old boy named Anouk. Each face is sectioned into two parts, with the project connecting the history of the island, best known as the location where the Man with the Iron Mask was imprisoned. The split mask is a metaphor for the ocean.
Prior to installing his sculptures, Taylor said the area had to be cleared of garbage, pipes, cables, and other rubbish that didn’t belong on the ocean floor. “I think we have a misconception that the underwater world is beautiful, filled with coral reefs, but that’s often not the case,” he said.
The aim is to draw attention to the declining state of the world’s oceans, as the Mediterranean, once ripe fishing grounds, is overflowed with pollution and suffers from over-fishing (not to mention over-tourism).
“One side of the mask depicts strength and resilience, the other fragility and decay,” the release states. “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.”
The six sculptures in this permanent installation are constructed using pH-neutral, environmentally-sensitive materials to instigate natural growth and the subsequent changes intended to explore the aesthetics of decay, rebirth and metamorphosis.
Check out our complete guide to the Lerins Islands.