Why Jason deCaires Taylor May Be The Greatest Sculptor You’ve Never Heard Of
You won’t see his art inside a gallery. In fact, unless you grab your snorkel and fins you won’t see Jason deCaires Taylor’s sculptures at all. All his best work is very much out of sight – because it’s under the sea.
And that’s kind of the point. After studying at Camberwell College of Arts in London, deCaires Taylor spent time designing theatre sets and teaching scuba diving. In 2006, he took a giant leap of faith, sinking his life’s savings into creating the world’s first public underwater sculpture park in Grenada.
Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park is now one of National Geographic’s 25 Wonders of the World and deCaires Taylor is credited as one of the world’s foremost artists integrating contemporary art with marine conservation.
Take The Raft of Lampedusa, on the seabed off Lanzarote. It depicts 13 refugees on a raft, drifting into an uncertain future where the sea itself – as recent tragedies in the English Channel and Mediterranean attest – is a mortal threat.
But the sea also needs protecting – from us. deCaires Taylor calls his underwater art attractions ‘museums’: “Every day we dredge, pollute and overfish our oceans, while museums are places of preservation, of conservation and of education.”
That’s the message behind The Coral Greenhouse in the Great Barrier Reef, formed of figurative statues designed to be colonised by clusters of coral growth. In an area where destruction of coral reefs is rampant and climate change threatens their very existence, this artwork will become a vibrant botanical garden and its human forms an evolving marine hybrid; part-human, part-plant, part-coral.
There is also an element of a politically charged rebellion and wit in deCaires Taylor’s work, a nod perhaps to his origins as a street artist. Take The Bankers off the coast of Cancun, where: “Each sculpture is in a prayer position to show that monetary items have replaced his god.” The subsea bankers have cavities between their buttocks in which crustaceans and eels can make their homes. An eel living in a banker’s bottom? Now that sounds like art.
5 of the best places to see Jason deCaires Taylor’s work
- Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA); Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Mexico
- Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park; Molinere Beauséjour Marine Protected Area, Grenada
- Museo Atlántico; Las Coloradas, Lanzarote
- Museum of Underwater Sculpture Ayia Napa (MUSAN); Ayia Napa, Cyprus
- Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA); Townsville, Australia
Maria Padget is a British writer and social justice campaigner, who has worked with organisations including Oxfam, Skoll Foundation and Soneva Namoona