Cancun Underwater Museum: Art Under Water
Repairing the underwater environment has never been any prettier than the efforts made to plant a new coral reef in the waters off the city of Cancun in Mexico. With the help of intricately detailed sculptures, a fresh batch of corals will develop in the parts of the sea that had been seriously damaged by recent storms.
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The underwater museum project called the Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA), more commonly known as the Cancun Underwater Museum. The project began in 2009 initiated by a non-profit organisation that has a devotion to the Art of Conservation. They chose to install various sculptures in the shallow areas off the Isla de Mujeres coast and Cancun.
MUSA features a collection of different sculptures that are placed on the ocean floor. It was a project that was spearheaded by Dir. Jaime Gonzales Cano of the National Marine Park, with the help of Roberto Abraham Diaz, the former president of the Cancun Nautical Association.
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An English sculptor named Jason deCaires Taylor and five Mexican sculptors created around 500 sculptures that are divided into three separate galleries to form the entire collection of the museum. The project that started in November 2009 was finished completely during the last quarter of 2013.
How it all began?
The underwater museum reportedly started when two bright minds from the government and the private sector got together during the start of 2008. Jaime Gonzalez Cano, the director of the National Park of the Costa Occidental Isla Mujeres, thought that it will be a good idea to lessen the number of tourists that dive and swim in the waters off Cancun annually to protect the natural reefs of the area.
That is why he went up to talk to Roberto Diaz Abraham, the president of the Cancun Nautical Association. They discussed the idea of diverting the attention of divers and snorkelers to an area where a set of concrete reef balls that has some corals had been installed back in 2005.
Jason deCaires Taylor
Diaz Abraham then believed that it will take a few more years before the artificial ocean garden would begin to be an attraction, which is why the idea of Gonzales Cano did not sit well for him. But the director was persistent, and he searched for other solutions to be able to implement his plans. He completed comprehensive research online, and he found the underwater artworks of Jason deCaires Taylor, a British sculptor.
After being blown away by deCaires’ masterpieces, Gonzales Cano immediately asked Diaz Abraham if he will be interested in building an underwater sculpture museum that would feature the work of deCaires Taylor. The president of the nautical association finally agreed, since he is also a sculptor and a ceramic artist.
Immediately, the director contacted the British artist and asked him to come over to Mexico and see if he could work with them in a very limited budget. deCaires Taylor decided to take the challenge, and flew from London as soon as he could.
Cancun Nautical Association put in their own money
The federal government had allotted funds for projects for Community Conservation, but a private individual was still needed to provide 20 per cent of matching funds in order for the budget to be released.
Diaz Abraham and the rest of the members of the Cancun Nautical Association volunteered to sign to match the funds. Also, the company that he works for called Aquaworld, decided to support the project together with several individuals and other companies.
With that, MUSA started to became a community effort. When everything was settled, the British sculptor started to work his magic and created different works of art together with five of Mexico’s esteemed sculptors.
After continuously working on the project for five years, deCaires Taylor and the other artists now have their creations installed underwater. Before 2013 ended, around 500 intricate concrete sculptures were crafted as part of the MUSA collection.
The exhibit room in Manchones has a total of 477 pieces, while around 23 pieces were placed in the Nizuc area of the museum. Also, there are about 26 replicas of sculptures that were placed at the museum’s visitor center located at the Kukulcan Mall along the Hotel Zone.
What can you expect in this underwater museum?
Most of the concrete statues on display feature the shape of an eye. They were composed that way so that they can manage and diffuse the currents in the area. The shape can also lessen the risk of being destroyed by currents created by tropical storms.
When the installations were in place, schools of fish started to return to that part of the ocean. Even those who left the area many years earlier returned because of the museum’s construction, such as the angelfish species. As a matter of fact, around 100 returning species have been spotted swimming around the area since the sculptures were placed in the sea bed.
Cars and local community
Some of the designs of the sculptures are patterned based on local members of the Isla Mujeres community. On the other hand, some sculptures were especially designed for art display, including the one called The Banker, a statue of a suited man who has his head buried in the sand. This statue was said to be created in order to represent a current financial scandal.
Other items in the concrete statue collection included a Volkswagen. It was created because the design can allow fish as well as other marine life can freely swim and inhabit in the gaps within the car. It is also intended to repel the strong water currents.
To be able to view this majestic underwater museum in Cancun, Mexico, tourists pay around $69 (£39) up to $71 (£43) per person, depending on the experience of the diver and the equipment required. For those who have no diving experience, there is also an option to ride a glass-floored boat and view the sculptures from above the water.