Écomusée sous-marin

by Jason deCaires Taylor

A museum is born

Submersion of sculptures by artist Jason deCaires Taylor: Cannes' underwater eco-museum drops anchor just off the island of Sainte-Marguerite

The big day has arrived! Thursday January 28th 2021, the landmark statues world-famous artist Jason deCaires Taylor, were submerged a few dozen metres off Ile Sainte-Marguerite to create the first underwater eco-museum in France and the Mediterranean. Six Cannes residents let the British artist use their features to make the pieces.

Jason deCaires Taylor himself oversaw the six statues being submerged near the south shore of Ile Sainte-Marguerite, in the Bay of Cannes, in January 2021.

Artist Jason deCaires Taylor official website: https://www.underwatersculpture.com
Credit: ALMO Film - © ALMO Film 2021 https://www.almofilm.com

The Mayor of Cannes had asked the sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor to create the first French and Mediterranean underwater eco-museum in Cannes. The artist's social and environmental vision has been around the world. He designed a unique piece inspired by masks for the city.

"What a joy it is to see the culmination of this magnificent project! Mixing beauty and learning, the Cannes underwater eco-museum symbolises my attachment to two fundamental values: cultural necessity and the preservation of the environment. The work of Jason deCaires Taylor is strong, artistic and ecological, submerged in a precious environment, where the seabed has been restored and is now protected.
The installation of these sculptures in Cannes now creates an enlarged, safe swimming area, a wonderful setting to discover its underwater life. The water is clear, the seabed sandy, and the statues can now play their role as home to fauna and flora. We have banned the mooring of boats here. It will be a place reserved for swimming, for bathers coming from the shore just a hundred metres away."

David Lisnard, Mayor of Cannes


Standing two metres tall and weighing about ten tons each, the six statues that make up the museum were made from ecological marine material of neutral pH providing a refuge for underwater life. The sculptures lie 84-132m from the shore and 3-5m deep so any diver with just a mask and snorkel can see them. The artist and Cannes Town Hall chose the theme together to conjure the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask who spent 11 years imprisoned on the island, and pay tribute to cinema and its home: Cannes.

The six faces were taken out by barge and then submerged near the southern shore of Sainte-Marguerite, in an area reserved for bathers that has been enlarged specifically for them.

The sculptures will evolve over time, becoming covered with algae, shells and corals, thus forming an integral part of the local marine ecosystem as their rough texture and nooks and crannies allow marine flora and fauna to take refuge and thrive there.

Jason deCaires Taylor's first work in the Mediterranean is in Cannes, south of the island of Sainte-Marguerite

Jason deCaires Taylor is a British artist world-renowned for the quality of his work and his active commitment to the protection of underwater environments. His thought-provoking designs live in the waters of Lanzarote, the Thames, Bahamas, Cancun, Oslo and Grenada (which was listed as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic) and Jason deCaires Taylor has chosen Cannes as the home of his new creations. The city of festivals is now the only city in France and the Mediterranean to offer such an underwater art and ecological museum.

Evolutionary in nature, his ecological, poetic works provide reefs that serve as a refuge for underwater life and raise awareness of the need to preserve marine biodiversity among the general population.

Extending the protected area where mooring is not allowed on a site carefully chosen to restore underwater biodiversity

The choice for the location of the six sculptures was directed towards a highly degraded site, impacted by human activity, easily accessible and not requiring diving equipment, as a simple mask and snorkel are all you need.
The swimming area (no mooring allowed) within which the sculptures are installed has been quadrupled in size and extended to 29,000 m2, which adds value in terms of landscape and environmental matters for this site classified Natura 2000.
Access is free and safe thanks to a ban on anchoring boats there.

The submerged ecological museum is in harmony with fishing and diving activities, and provides suitable habitats for the animal and plant species behind the classification of the site. The project’s creation also undergoes regular ecological monitoring of the underwater ecosystem of the Lérins Islands archipelago. It provides a special place to observe the evolving marine biodiversity, which is in line with the City Council's desire to protect this natural space, which was completely cleaned up in October 2019, in partnership with ENEDIS.

Masks: a theme unique to Cannes

The theme of masks, chosen in collaboration with the City of Cannes, is an echo of the city’s history and cultural heritage, referring to the "Man in the Iron Mask", the famous prisoner locked in the state prison on the island of Sainte-Marguerite from 1687 to 1698 (now the Musée du Masque de Fer et du Fort Royal). An iconic figure in local history, the Iron Mask is also an internationally recognised symbol, invoked since the 18th century to denounce the arbitrariness of absolute power. In addition, this theme resonates with the 7th 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 the "Cannes on air" creative economic sector.

illustration of the man in the iron mask

A completely new work, created exclusively for the city, with the participation of the people of Cannes

From 2 to 4 July 2018, during a retrospective summer exhibition of the works of Jason deCaires Taylor at the Museum of the Sea, the international artist set up a temporary workshop at the Fort of Sainte Marguerite Island. For three days, the artist and his two assistants made 45 casts of the faces of volunteers from Cannes.

From them, the artist selected six models representing the diversity of Cannes’ population, and here are their names and ages at the time of casting:

  • Maurice MERENDA, 78, fisherman/skipper
  • Eugène KUSTOV, 30, self-employed
  • Anouk VANGHENT, 7, Year 2 schoolgirl at the time
  • Nour BRADAI, 20, student
  • Marion BEAUDIN, 29, cultural mediator
  • Dominique ROYAL, 54, employee

Artistic and cultural education (ACE) activities supported the creation of the Jason deCaires Taylor underwater museum

In Cannes, a city that’s 100% ACE thanks to the efforts of David Lisnard, the municipal directorate of culture has seized the opportunity offered by the creation of the underwater eco-museum to put forward cross-cutting cultural mediation activities. As a result, a 3rd-year class from the Stanislas Institute in Cannes followed the artist throughout the project and the students were able to conduct an interview with Jason deCaires Taylor on the work site at Port Canto in October 2020. In this way, the children came to understand the artist's creative approach, the choice of theme and, more broadly, the environmental issues raised by his work.

artistic and cultural education (ace) - MORE

A council project supported by patrons involved in the cultural promotion and protection of the environment

The Mayor of Cannes would like to thank the patrons involved in bringing the underwater eco-museum to life, whether it be financial donations:

  • Mrs Lia RIVA
  • A Belgian couple who love Cannes
  • SUEZ EAU France

or donations of another kind:

  • ENEDIS (sculpture area clean-up)
  • GARELLI TP (provision of staff, natural stone supply and delivery for the sculpture bases).


How to visit the écomusée sous-marin DE CANNES