The first ecomuseum of France and the Mediterranean is in Cannes
The sculptures of the Cannes underwater eco-museum, inspired by six Cannes faces and realized by the famous British international artist Jason deCaires Taylor, in love with the city, took place a few dozen meters from the shore of the Sainte-Marguerite island in early 2021.
“What a joy to be able to contemplate the outcome of this magnificent project! Combining beauty and pedagogy, the underwater eco-museum of Cannes symbolizes my attachment to two fundamental values: the cultural necessity and the preservation of the environment. Jason deCaires Taylor’s work is a strong artistic and ecological work, immersed in a precious environment, where the seabed has been restored and is now protected.
In 2015, I was struck by the images of his work in Mexico. They were powerful and dreamlike, with a real ecological dimension. The installation of the sculptures in Cannes now sanctuaries an enlarged swimming area, a setting conducive to the discovery of underwater life. The waters are clear, the ground is sandy, the statues should be able to play their role of hosts for the fauna and the flora. We have forbidden boats to anchor there. It will be a place reserved for bathing, for swimmers coming from the shore about a hundred meters away. The treatment of the faces proposed by the artist, both poetic and serious, is an ode to the splendor of marine biodiversity and the duty to protect it.”
David Lisnard, mayor of Cannes
Jason deCaires Taylor’s work is a strong artistic and ecological work, immersed in a precious environment, where the sea bed has been restored and is now protected.
Enthused by the idea of David Lisnard who had proposed to the sculptor to realize his first underwater eco-museum of France and the Mediterranean in Cannes, Jason deCaires Taylor, whose societal and environmental approach has toured the world, has imagined for the city a new work inspired by the theme of the mask.
Two meters high and weighing approximately ten tons each, the six statues that make up the museum were made from PH-neutral, environmentally friendly marine material that provides a haven for underwater life. Immersed at a distance ranging from 84 to 132 meters from the shore and a depth of 3 to 5 meters, the sculptures are accessible to the greatest number of divers equipped simply with a mask and snorkel. The theme, chosen jointly by the Mayor of Cannes and the artist, evokes the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask, who was imprisoned for eleven years on the island, and also pays tribute to the 7th art of which Cannes is the setting.
Jason deCaires Taylor is a British artist renowned worldwide for the quality of his work and his active commitment to the protection of underwater environments. He has populated the waters of Lanzarote, the Thames, the Bahamas, Cancun, Oslo and Grenada with his disturbing silhouettes (a work designated by National Geographic magazine as one of the 25 wonders of the world) and it is in Cannes that Jason deCaires Taylor is installing his new creations. The city of festivals is the only city in France and the Mediterranean to offer such an artistic and ecological underwater museum. Of an evolving nature, his ecological and poetic works constitute reefs serving as a refuge for underwater life and raise public awareness of the need to preserve marine biodiversity.
The city of festivals is the only city in France and the Mediterranean to offer such an artistic and ecological underwater museum.
The extension of the protected area forbidden to moorings on a site judiciously chosen to restore the underwater biodiversity
The choice of the location of the six sculptures was made for a highly anthropized and degraded site, easily accessible, requiring no diving equipment since a simple mask and snorkel are sufficient. Its access is free of charge and protected by a ban on boat anchoring. The bathing area (forbidden to anchor) in which the sculptures have been installed, is quadrupled and extended to 29 000 m2, which represents an added value in terms of landscape and environment for this site classified Natura 2000.
The ecological underwater museum is in harmony with fishing and diving activities, and is conducive to the habitats of the animal and plant species that led to the site’s classification. The implementation of the project is accompanied by a regular ecological monitoring of the underwater ecosystem of the archipelago of the Lerins Islands. It constitutes a privileged observatory of the evolution of marine biodiversity, consistent with the desire of the City Council to protect this natural area, which was moreover the subject of a complete cleanup in October 2019, in partnership with ENEDIS.
The masks: a theme specific to Cannes
The theme of the masks, chosen in collaboration with the City of Cannes, echoes the history and cultural heritage of the city by referring to the famous “Iron Mask”, a famous prisoner locked up in the state prison on the island of Sainte-Marguerite from 1687 to 1698. An emblematic figure in local history, the Iron Mask is also an internationally recognized symbol, invoked since the 18th century to denounce the arbitrariness of absolute power. In addition, this theme resonates with the 7 th Art, of which Cannes is the world capital with the Cannes Film Festival, inseparable from the history of the city, and the project to create a creative economy sector “Cannes on air”. The sculptures will evolve over time, covering themselves with seaweed, shells and corals, becoming an integral part of the local marine ecosystem as their rough texture and nooks and crannies allow the marine fauna and flora to take refuge and thrive there.