Nearly two decades ago, the world’s first underwater sculpture garden opened off the coast of Grenada to much acclaim and wonder. Now, artists have expanded the unique installation by submerging 31 new sculptures under the cerulean waters of the Caribbean.
Located in a protected marine area off the west coast of Grenada, an island nation northeast of Venezuela, the Molinière Underwater Sculpture Park covered 8,600 square feet of seafloor when it first opened and included 75 sculptures created primarily by British artist and ecologist Jason deCaires Taylor,.
Taylor had proposed the idea to help Molinere Bay recover from damage it suffered in 2004 during Hurricane Ivan, as well as to raise awareness about the threats posed by climate change. His sculptures, which are made of durable, pH-neutral natural cement, provide habitat for coral polyps and other types of marine life—they serve as manmade coral reefs. The sculpture garden quickly proved popular among humans, too, attracting snorkelers, scuba divers and sightseers in glass-bottom boats.
In late October, deCaires Taylor installed additional works he created in collaboration with Grenadian artists, including 25 collectively titled The Coral Carnival. Commissioned by the Grenadian Ministry of Implementation and Tourism, the new additions are inspired by Spicemas, Grenada’s annual carnival celebration.
Each piece represents an iconic Spicemas masquerader, like Jab Jab, a character who symbolizes freedom, and Shortknee, a figure who wears a colorful jumpsuit and ankle bells. Other Spicemas figures depicted include Vieux Corps, Pretty Mas and Wild Indian. Together, the new works “deepen our connection to the rich cultural tapestry of our nation,” says Randall Dolland, chief executive officer of the Grenada Tourism Authority, in a statement.
Four other sculptures, created by Grenadian artist Troy Lewis, were also installed, including one depicting the endangered leatherback turtle. These large creatures, which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds, visit Grenada’s northern beaches to lay their eggs every spring.
For the first time, deCaires Taylor added color to the underwater sculptures, which are typically gray. Using a calcium carbonate base and natural pigments like squid ink and turmeric, he added bold hues to the underwater statues, per BBC News’ Christian Fuller. Some of the pieces are also decked out in sequins, jewels and feathers.
Marine life quickly moved into the new sculptures after installation, including an octopus and a family of crabs. But, longer term, since the new additions are colorful, deCaires Taylor is curious to see “whether they’ll be colonized in any different way” than the original sculptures, he tells CNN Travel’s Tamara Hardingham-Gill.
“Marine life is very influenced by color,” he adds.
Creating and transporting the sculptures was no easy feat. DeCaires Taylor cast them in his studio in Faversham, England, then shipped them to Grenada. Because the deployment company wasn’t available right away, the sculptures hung out at Prickly Bay Marina for four weeks during an unplanned dry land exhibition, per CNN Travel.
Eventually, a crane lowered each piece into the water, where divers—including deCaires Taylor—carefully placed them. Toronto Star journalist Paul Knowles attended the installation and was one of the first people to explore the new underwater expansion.
“The art is set in patches of open sand and gullies between natural rock and coral locations throughout the bay, which also provides spectacular encounters with wildlife,” he writes “I floated among multicolored Caribbean reef squid and saw dozens of species of fish and other creatures of the ocean.”