Cannes Underwater Museum Sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor
Cannes Underwater Museum
Just 15 minutes by ferry from Cannes, the two Lérins islands, Saint Honorat and Saint-Marguerite, are a popular destination for those hoping to spend a day enjoying the Mediterranean. Now, there is another reason to visit sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor. The area reserved for swimmers and scuba divers south of l’île Sainte-Marguerite is the home of six giant two-metre faces resting on the seafloor. DeCaires Taylor was invited by the city to develop the Écomusée sous-marin de Cannes. This project is the first of its kind in France.
Inspired by the Cannes Film Festival, the city’s 7th art (murals), and the mysterious prisoner – the Man in the Iron Mask – imprisoned for over a decade (1687-1698) l’île Sainte-Marguerite, the underwater park’s theme surfaced. In July 2018, the Musée de la Mer had an exhibition of Jason deCaires Taylor’s work. During the exposition on l’île Sainte-Marguerite, the artist and his team cast masks of 45 faces of the show’s visitors. Six Cannes residents volunteered to have their faces cast into giant sculptures that weigh roughly nine tons. The large stone faces, made with a PH neutral marine material, are now a refuge for art enthusiasts, scuba and snorkelers, and sea life.
When British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor began scuba diving at 18 years old, it’s unlikely that he imagined creating one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World (National Geographic). The Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park located off Grenada’s coast in the West Indies opened to the public in 2006 with 65 submerged sculptures – Vicissitudes. DeCaires Taylor’s undersea creations are found worldwide from Australia to Cancun, Mexico, to the Canary Islands and now in the Mediterranean near Cannes. A graduate of the London Institute of Arts (1998), Jason deCaires Taylor is a sculptor, environmentalist, underwater photographer and certified scuba instructor.
The artist accepts and invites the marine ecosystem and the passage of time to alter his sculptures. Eventually, the sculptures will blend in with the local sea life. The smooth sides of these art pieces roughening and become covered with algae, shells and corals. Visit many times to witness the sculptures’ aquatic evolution.
“The submerged ecological museum will be in harmony with fishing and diving activities and conducive to the animal and plant species’ habitats responsible for the site’s classification. The project’s implementation will be accompanied by regular ecological monitoring of the underwater ecosystem of the Lérins Islands archipelago. It will constitute a privileged observatory of the evolution of marine biodiversity, consistent with the City Council’s will to protect this natural space, which was also the subject of a complete cleaning in October 2019, in partnership with ENEDIS.” ~ Mairie de Cannes, Press Release
These are the names and ages (at time of casting) of the six models representing Cannes’ diverse population:
More than Movies
Along with the open water museum and the sparkling Mediterranean, the 7th Art is another reason to visit Cannes. The city invites you to discover the 15+ murals located around town. These giant paintings all have film-related themes.
“Ever mindful of improving the quality of life of the people of Cannes and enhancing the appearance of the city’s neighbourhoods, the Municipality of Cannes has since 2002 been promoting a vast programme of giant wall paintings which residents and visitors can discover at various locations across town upon turning into one of the city’s streets or avenues.” ~ Ville de Cannes
L’ile Saint Honorat or Lérina (old name) is a quick boat ride from Cannes. The island, which is home to 19th century Abbaye de Lérins has been a religious refuge for 16 centuries. Its separation from the mainland afforded the monks from the Cistercian Congregation of the Immaculate Conception a place for reflection. L’ile Saint Honorat’s enviable position near the coast allows the community of monks to live a chaste life. Today there are about 21 monks who call the island home. It was not always peaceful on the island; read more about the history here.
Shop for regional produce at the covered Marché Forville (closed on Mondays). Discover Cannes’ Old Town – Le Suquet. Walk up rue Saint-Antoine for panoramic views of the Lérins Islands and the Esterels. Consider Cannes as a base for a French Riviera holiday; it’s perfect for day trips.
Image credits as indicated below each photo.
Additional reading: Maclean’s Magazine February 2022. “Why these artists are leaving ghostly sculptures at the bottom of the ocean.” Artists are populating seabeds with sculptures that attract divers while also asking whether they should really be there