Museo Atlantico, Europe’s first underwater museum is dedicated to refugees crossing the Mediterranean

Museo Atlantico is the first underwater museum in Europe. Located in the Canary Islands, it’s a monument to the thousands of – forgotten – refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

A submarine work of art, made of sculptures of refugees – portrayed as shipwrecked people – trying to reach Europe, now lies off the coasts of Lanzarote, one of the Spanish islands of the Canaries. The sculptures by the artist Jason deCaires Taylor make up Europe’s first underwater museum set to be open to public as of 25 February: the Museo Atlántico Lanzarote: Biosfera, Arte y Naturaleza.

The photographs of Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote, Spain

Museo Atlantico is located off Las Coloradas beach, Playa Blanca, and covers a surface of 2,500 square metres, 12 to 15 metres below the surface. The area is protected from strong currents and it’s one of the favourite destinations of divers and snorkelers: over 100,000 tourists visited these depths in 2013 alone. The sculptures are designed to last 300 years and are made of a material that doesn’t represent any threat to the surrounding marine ecosystem. Actually, it has been designed to enhance biodiversity, like an artificial coral reef.

The raft of Lampedusa

The latest piece of Museo Atlantico is the Raft of Lampedusa, sculpture featuring a dinghy with 13 refugees adrift, inspired by the Raft of Medusa (1919), Théodore Géricault’s famed painting exhibited at Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The 13 sculptures – realised thanks to plaster casts – recall the faces of people who really disembarked at Lanzarote, even if the work’s title is exclusively dedicated to the Italian island of Lampedusa, the most common destination migrants “choose” to reach the European borders after weeks of exodus in inhuman conditions. Many, indeed, asked for the island of Lampedusa and its inhabitants to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jason deCaires Taylor’s works

These photographs have been taken by the artist himself, Taylor, who has already realised esteemed artistic installations in the past, such as the MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte in Mexico) and Viccisitudes, over 65 sculptures off the coast of Grenada, Caribbean Sea. Pedro San Ginés, the President and Minister of Tourism for Lanzarote defined Museo Atlantico as “a milestone in the history of this island in the 21st century”. A monument to the “unknown refugee”.

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