France has unveiled Europe’s first underwater museum made up of statues sculpted by various local artists by placing them along the seafloor 100 metres off the Mediterranean coast near Marseille.
The project had been in the works for a while but had been met with various legal hurdles. In fact, the museum’s creators are still not out of the woods because the Marseille town council are threatening to have them removed on environmental grounds.
This is despite the French government giving its go-ahead for the project to be implemented.
The director of the Musee subaquatique de Marseille, Anthony Lacanaud told Newsflash in a statement: “All the artists produced their works with the desire and the need to convey strong messages, particularly on the urgent theme of the protection of the environment and of the Mediterranean’s underwater ecosystem.
“A noble and sincere approach that is addressed to Marseille residents but also to tourists from all over the world.”
At roughly 100 metres (328 feet) from the Catalans beach, which is on the Marseille seafront, the site currently counts at least eight statues including one of Poseidon by French sculptor Christophe Charbonnel, who told French newspaper La Provence: “It is really exceptional.”
Some of the other statues include “La Graine et la mer” (‘The grain and the sea’) by Davide Galbiati and l’Oursin (the ‘Sea urchin’) by Daniel Zanca.
The museum is being installed by local underwater technical specialist company Seven Seas, also based in Marseille. Mr Lacanaud said it was the first underwater museum in Europe with statues by different artists.
He added: “This unusual and long-awaited museum is proving to be a true artistic, technical, scientific, educational and environmental feat. The opening to the public will be in autumn at the earliest depending on the vagaries of the weather.”
Mr Lacanaud posted on Facebook yesterday evening (Wednesday 30th September): “Long years have been necessary for this museum to be completed for the women and men of Marseille. Thank you to all those who helped me and especially my family.”
At a depth of just 5 metres (16.4 feet), the installation is designed to be easily accessible to the public.
However, the town hall of Marseille appears to be against the project and have questioned its environmental impact despite the French government giving its go-ahead.
According to French newspaper Le Parisien, Herve Menchon, the Marseille town council in charge of the sea, regrets having been “put in front of the fait accompli”.
He added: “We are asking for answers about the environmental impact of the statues, especially to know if they contain any plastic fibres.
“Depending on the answers we are given, it is possible that we would go so far as to remove the sculptures, even if we do not wish to do so.”
Mr Lacanaud has been heading up the project for 4 years and is a passionate diver himself.
He said: “We are 100 metres from the beach, at a depth of 5 metres. The statues are made out of cement so as to attract marine wildlife, with a security buoy on site all year round for divers to rest, there are also security signposts with recommendations on the beach.”
He said the cement would allow them to act like a coral reef where an ecosystem could develop the provided food for the fish.
He added: “The installation comprises work by 10 different artists. In technical terms, it is an educational artificial reef.”
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