Meet the Sculptures of the World’s Largest Underwater Museum

by Cara Gourley on August 10, 2010

Underwater Museum in Cancun

Cancun’s newest attraction, the Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA) better known as the Underwater Museum – is a museum of sculptures submerged in the water of the National Marine Park near Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc. The eco-friendly goal of the museum is to re-position some of the heavy traffic (750,000 visitors a year) from the nearby reefs so the coral and marine life there can have a chance to regenerate.

The sculptures in the Underwater Museum are designed by Jason deCaires Taylor, who designed the 1st underwater museum in Grenada in the West Indies. The art is expected to become covered in algae and coral,  helping to give the ecosystem in the area a boost.

“By creating an artificial reef of sculptures, the ultimate aim of the project is to form a platform to promote the regeneration of marine life and to use sculpture as a means of conveying hope and environmental awareness,” said Taylor.

transporting sculptures for Cancun's underwater museum

The Underwater Museum in Cancun will be the largest of its kind- totaling over 400 sculptures!

Phase One in November 2009 was marked by the placement of 3 sculptures; The Gardener of Hope, The Archive of Lost Dreams and Man of Fire. These have already started showing coral growth.

2010 marks Phase Two of the Underwater Museum’s construction, consisting of Jason deCaires Taylor’s 400 figure installation – The Silent Evolution.

During the last phase, local artists will be invited to contribute their sculptures and ideas.

With the basics covered – let’s meet the artwork of Cancun’s Underwater Museum!

The Archive of Lost Dreams

The Archive of Lost Dreams at Cancun's Underwater Museum

The Visual: The Archive of Lost Dreams depicts an underwater archive of messages in bottles being maintained by a male registrar and his pet.

The Meaning: The bottles contain messages of dreams for future generations.

The Hope: The statue is placed in an area of the reef which had been previously damaged by hurricanes and tropical storms in order to help draw visitors away from the healthy parts of the reef.

The Location: The Archive of Lost Dreams was placed 8 meters deep at Manchones Reef, close to Isla Mujeres.

Behind the Scenes: The collection of bottled messages were provided by various communities who wrote about today’s values and their hopes and dreams for the future generations.

The Gardener of Hope

The Gardener of Hope at Cancun's Underwater Museum

The Visual: In the Gardener of Hope, a young Mexican girl lies in a garden surrounded by pots which will be propagated with live coral.

The Meaning: The young girl in the sculpture represents a model for hopeful future generations that will better understand the symbiotic relationship with the marine life and the environment.

The Hope: The base of the Gardener of Hope was built to attract various marine creatures such as moray eels, young fish and lobsters. The coral in the pots is also expected to grow.

The Location: The Gardener of Hope was placed 4 meters deep at Punta Nizuc which is near the coast of Cancun.

Behind the Scenes: The pots in The Gardener of Hope are filled with live coral cuttings that were saved from areas of the local reef system that visitation and recent hurricanes had damaged.

Man on Fire

Man on Fire at Cancun's Underwater Museum

The Visual: Man on Fire depicts its namesake – a lone male figure covered in live fire coral to resemble fire.

The Meaning: The sculpture symbolizes the unawareness of the “fire” our generation has started with the over use of limited natural resources.

The Hope: Man on Fire has 75 holes planted with small live cuttings of fire coral (Millepora alcicorni) which are expected to grow like fire.

The Location: Man on Fire was installed 8 meters deep at the Manchones Reef nearby to Isla Mujeres.

Behind the Scenes: The sculpture was cast from a local Mexican fisherman named Joachim and it weighs over 1 ton.

The Silent Evolution

The Silent Evolution at Cancun's Underwater Museum

The Visual: In the Silent Evolution more than 400 sculptures depict the timeline of human nature, highlighting the variety in human life – male, female, old and young.

The Meaning: The Silent Evolution is a documentation of how society and people have changed over time both physically and socially. The installation starts with Mayan times and goes through today’s society. It is also to remind us of how we are connected to nature.

The Hope: The installation is designed using specialized cement that promotes the growth of coral life with the hope of forming a complex reef structure that marine life will claim as its own and inhabit.

The Location: The Silent Evolution will be installed 8 meters deep behind the Manchones Reef.

Behind the Scenes: The total installation will expand over 150 square meters and will weigh over 120 tons. Casts were taken from local and international communities.

You can meet these sculptures in person by glass boat, snorkeling or scuba diving.   Guided tours are a must. You can catch a tour from Aquaworld, which leave every hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.  The cost is $40 for snorkelers, $65 for a one-tank dive, and $70 for two tanks.

Have you been to the Underwater Museum? Share your experience.

Cara is the Director of Web and Video Production at All About Mexico. She loves traveling, taking photos of everything and writing about Mexico. You can follow her on twitter - @allaboutcara.
Cara Gourley
View all posts by Cara Gourley

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