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9 Amazing Statues You Can Only See Underwater

The vast oceans contain many natural wonders, but they are also home to some astounding additions made by humans. Across the world statues have been sunk into the oceans for a variety of reasons—as memorials, to offer protection to a fragile marine environment, or simply as art. Colored with algae and populated by coral, some of the statues have become tourist destinations in their own right.

1. CHRIST OF THE ABYSS // A MEMORIAL TO DIVERS LOST AT SEA

Christ of the Abyss in Florida. Image credit: vgm8383 via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Famous Italian diver Duilio Marcante conceived the idea of placing a statue of Christ under the water near a popular dive site in San Fruttuoso, near Portofino, Italy, after his good friend and fellow diver Dario Gonzatti lost his life diving near that spot in 1947. Sculptor Guido Galletti received the commission, and created an 8-foot bronze statue of Christ with his arms outstretched. The statue was placed more than 50 feet underwater in 1954 and provides not just a memorial to those who have lost their lives at sea but also a reference point for divers in distress.

Christ of the Abyss has become a busy diving site and in 2003 the statue was removed from the ocean for refurbishment after it became corroded and lost a hand due to being hit with an anchor. It was returned to the sea in 2005. The beautiful and affecting statue has proved so popular it has been recast a number of times and copies now exist in St George, Grenada and Key Largo, Florida.

2. VIRGIN MARY // DETERRING ILLEGAL FISHING

In 2010 in Bohol, the Philippines, locals placed two statues 60 feet underwater near a very rare double barrier reef, the Danajon Bank. The delicate marine area had been a victim of overfishing and some fishermen were resorting to using dynamite and cyanide to increase their catch. In order to deter this destructive behavior, two 14-foot statues of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus were placed on the sea floor, apparently to remind everyone that God created this special marine environment. The initiative worked, and dynamite is no longer used for fear of damaging the religious icons. Instead, divers flock to the site to admire and pray at the statues.

3. OCEAN ATLAS // HOLDING THE OCEAN ALOFT

Creators Project/YouTube

The largest known underwater statue is Ocean Atlas, made by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor and placed 16 feet underwater off Nassau, the Bahamas, in 2014. The statue was designed to draw attention to the need to conserve the oceans. Ocean Atlas weighs 60 tons and depicts a girl sitting hunched over, seemingly holding up the ocean above her; the piece is inspired by the Greek legend of Atlas, the Titan who held the world aloft. DeCaires Taylor specializes in creating underwater works of art and uses special pH-neutral marine cement, which is intended to last for hundreds of years and encourages coral and seaweed to colonize it, forming an artificial reef.

4. MOLINERE, GRENADA // WORLD’S FIRST UNDERWATER SCULPTURE PARK

The world’s first underwater sculpture park was created in 2006 in Molinere Bay just off St. George's in Grenada, after the area was damaged by a storm surge. It was hoped that the sympathetic sculptures, also created by Jason deCaires Taylor, would help the sea life regenerate by providing surfaces for algae and coral to cling to. One of the first installations was Vicissitudes, a circle of life-sized figures with interlinked hands, cast from the bodies of local children. More recently, 14 new sculptures based on Amerindian art by local artist Troy Lewis have been added to the park, including a 3-foot high Zemi, or stone idol.

5. EASTER ISLAND STATUE // MYSTERIOUS MOAI

Off the coast of Easter Island, home to the amazing carved stone Moai figures, lies an underwater statue that is not all that it seems. The 10-foot tall concrete Moai is not an original ancient statue but a modern replica. Mystery surrounds the origins of the piece—some claim it was created by modern-day residents of Easter Island and placed underwater as a tourist attraction, while others assert that it was a prop created either for a Chilean television show or for a 1994 Kevin Costner movie. Whatever the truth, the statue has become a popular dive site, especially since the lack of pollution means that the crystal clear waters give divers a great view of the submerged statue.

6. AMPHITRITE // MERMAID STATUE OFF GRAND CAYMAN

"Amphitrite," by Simon Morris, off Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

In 2000, the Canadian artist Simon Morris created a 9-foot-tall bronze statue of a mermaid, named for Amphitrite, the wife of Greek god of the sea Poseidon. The 600-pound mermaid statue was sunk under 50 feet of water off the coast of Grand Cayman Island in Sunset Reef (an earlier version also exists in British Columbia). When the statue was put in place, it was lowered into the water using a crane before being towed to its resting place. To ensure the statue did not crack on its journey into the deep, three small holes were drilled into the head of the statue to allow air bubbles to escape. The statue is now a popular place for divers.

7. NEPTUNE MEMORIAL REEF // UNDERWATER MAUSOLEUM

The Neptune Memorial Reef off Key Biscayne, Florida, was created in 2007 as an underwater mausoleum with statues and memorials constructed from cremated remains. Built in the style of the lost city of Atlantis, the Neptune Memorial Reef is now the world’s largest human-made reef. Those wishing to have their loved one buried in this unique manner can have cremated remains mixed with non-porous cement, which is then fashioned into a statue or memorial stone of their choosing. Mourners (and curious divers alike) can then dive or snorkel the site to explore the vast underwater cemetery and coral garden and pay their respects.

8. RUINS OF BAIAE, ITALY // ROMAN ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIVE SITE

In Roman times, Baiae on the Bay of Naples was the equivalent of Las Vegas—a party site packed with lavish villas and populated by the elite. Unfortunately, the bay-side location proved its undoing, since the whole area is plagued by volcanic activity, and the entire city was abandoned by 1500 before being reclaimed by the sea. Today Baiae is a protected archaeological underwater park. Many of the statues have been removed to local museums, but excellent replicas stand in their place, ensuring the ruined temples retain their original character. Tourists can explore the area by glass-bottomed boat, snorkel, or scuba-diving, providing a tantalizing glimpse of this once thriving (and decadent) Roman resort.

9. MUSA // UNDERWATER SCULPTURE PARK

The Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA) off Cancun, Mexico, is an underwater sculpture park for divers and snorkelers that now contains over 500 statues. Created in 2009, the site covers some 4520 square feet of otherwise featureless seabed and utilizes materials that promote sea life, creating an artificial reef. Six artists have created works for the underwater museum, ranging from interactive stone hoops through which divers can swim to Silent Evolution, the largest exhibit, which features a crowd of 450 life-sized statues. One of the aims of the project is to help protect the nearby natural reefs (which are becoming damaged through overuse) by diverting visitors to MUSA, an otherwise barren area of seabed.

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Louvre Abu Dhabi
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The Louvre Abu Dhabi Just Opened the World's First Radio-Guided Highway Art Gallery
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Louvre Abu Dhabi

One way to plan an epic art road trip is to drive from museum to museum, but in the United Arab Emirates, you can take in masterpieces without leaving your car. As Artforum reports, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has lined a stretch of highway with billboards displaying works by Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, and Piet Mondrian.

The 10 works on display along the E/11 Sheikh Zayed road connecting Dubai to Abu Dhabi are recreations of pieces at or on loan to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which developed the project in partnership with three radio stations. Dubbed the Highway Gallery, it was "created to reinforce art's role in elevating everyday life into something beautiful and memorable," the museum website reads.

Like in a traditional gallery, the 30-foot-by-23-foot displays along the road are accompanied by a guided audio tour. Drivers can learn the title, artist, technique, and other details about each piece by tuning into a participating local radio station (Radio 1 FM, Classic FM, or Emarat FM). There they will hear descriptions of Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière, Van Gogh’s Self Portrait, 1887, and Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow, and Black, as well as the Islamic sculpture Mari-Cha Lion and the sarcophagus of Egyptian princess Henuttawy.

The Highway Gallery will run through mid-March. After that, art lovers can drive their cars to the Louvre Abu Dhabi to see the items in person.

[h/t Artforum]

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5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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