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At the museum… under the sea !

Museums of a new kind are opening their doors in France: Cannes, Marseille and Ajaccio are inaugurating underwater museums. These underwater, artistic spaces, some of which are designed to raise ecological awareness, have multiplied in recent years. Already present in Mexico, they now exist in Norway, the Canary Islands, Australia, Greece and now in France. A guided tour a few meters under the sea : to your masks, get ready, dive ! 

Put on your flippers and your diving mask to visit a museum? An unusual experience that is now possible in France! Off the coast of the city, Marseille has just opened its first underwater museum, as Cannes will soon do in the Gulf of La Napoule at the end of November. A statue of Poseidon, human faces, characters forming a circle or a giant sea urchin … these are all strange underwater statues that amateurs and curious people alike will be able to discover.  

If this innovative museum is now landing in France, it is off the island of Grenada that it all began on the initiative of an English sculptor and diving instructor: Jason deCaires Taylor. In 2006, he decided to raise public awareness of the need to preserve underwater biodiversity by immersing works of art in the Caribbean Sea. In the heart of the reefs damaged by Hurricane Ivan, disturbing silhouettes appear, destined to reintroduce certain extinct species. These evolutionary sculptures, made of ecological marine cement with neutral pH, serve as a base for the development of corals and invite starfish and fish to come and live there. By offering a spectacle as aesthetic as it is disturbing, they invite you to dive into the depths of the sea where natural history is in the hands of man.


This dive in the Caribbean abyss conquered the public and immediately gave Jason deCaires Taylor worldwide fame. He was then considered one of the most innovative personalities in the art world, illustrating both the beauty of the evolution of underwater nature and its fragility. Encouraged by this success, the British sculptor founded a second underwater museum in Cancún in 2009, then in Lanzarote in 2017 and, more recently, at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia. 

This approach, which is both artistic and environmental, has seduced the city of Cannes, whose underwater experience revolves around six works by Jason deCaires Taylor: each is a mask, about two meters, high that can be explored south of Sainte-Marguerite Island, in a protected, natural swimming area. The approach has also inspired other museums of a similar nature in France, such as the one in Marseille founded by Antony Lacanaud, for which Jason deCaires Taylor was initially responsible for the sculptures. But as the sculptor withdrew from the project, the museum had to turn to other artists whose sculptures can now be seen underwater, such as Michel Audiard, Thierry Trivès, Mathias Souverbie and Marc Petit. The latter has also created about thirty works for François Ollandini, owner of the Ajaccio underwater museum, which was the very first underwater gallery to open in France. This one counts now 13 sculptures which must be completed by about twenty others.


With the addition of these three innovative museums in France, there are now a total of ten underwater museums scattered around the world. This phenomenon, which is growing and attracting more and more visitors, transforms the sea into a new place for cultural exploration and environmental awareness rooted in time. If one can dive to see sculptures, one can also discover other types of underwater museums, such as the underwater trail inaugurated this summer on the Greek island of Alonissos around an ancient ship that sank in 425 BC! Whatever their era, these underwater works promise a poetic journey, encouraging us to navigate between nature, artistic creation and humanity.