A scuba-diving British sculptor has created an extraordinary artificial reef off the Mexican coast.

Ten minutes by boat, and nine metres deep, an extraordinary installation is taking shape off the coast of Cancun in Mexico. Sunk to the bottom of the seabed are 350 human forms — cast from real people — with another 50 to come before the Museo Subacuatico de Arte officially opens in November.

This is the work of Jason deCaires Taylor, a scuba-diving British sculptor who trained at the Camberwell College of Art in south London, and whose previous installations include submerged figures in Grenada. “In a gallery, you get one perspective,” says Mr. deCaires Taylor. “Under water, you can fly over the sculptures, go between them. The light is very different and is affected by the surface of the sea. It has a lost feel to it, which I really like.” There is also a practical, ecological dimension. “When I became a diving instructor, I saw the decimation of the coral reefs, so I got into the idea of making art as artificial reefs.” The sculptures are made from a special cement with a neutral PH, which will attract corals to grow on them. He hopes that the underwater museum, covering 420 square metres, will draw people away from the fragile natural reefs. “I wanted to create an image of humans living in balance with nature instead of in opposition to it,” he says. “The ‘people' will become a habitat as the corals develop. There is no way I would be able to create that kind of beauty with my own hand, it is only something nature can make.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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