The Great Barrier Reef is getting an underwater museum

He’s introduced underwater sculptures off the coast of Indonesia, the Maldives, and the Canary Islands, and now, artist Jason deCaires Taylor is bringing his unique vision to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. 

coral greenhouse front view

The museum's coral greenhouse is designed to be a livable habitat for marine life, its skeletal structure providing the optimal conditions for coral to grow and thrive. Image by Jason deCaires Taylor/Museum of Underwater Art

Set to open in December, the new Museum of Underwater Art is the sculptor’s first major project in the southern hemisphere, and it will feature inter-tidal and fully submerged pieces that evolve with the water’s ebb and flow. The installations will be staggered throughout Queensland, with galleries in Townsville, Magnetic Island, Palm Island, and the Great Barrier Reef region. 

“5m Ocean Siren” is a solar-powered sculpture of an indigenous girl that changes colors as the water temperatures shift. 

“5m Ocean Siren” is a solar-powered sculpture of an indigenous girl that changes colors as the water temperatures shift.  Image by Jason deCaires Taylor/Museum of Underwater Art

The first piece, slated to debut in December, is “5m Ocean Siren” is a solar-powered sculpture of an indigenous girl that changes color with the water temperatures, using data from atmospheric weather stations on the reef. 

The greenhouse will include a coral nursery designed to encourage new growth.

The greenhouse will include a coral nursery designed to encourage new growth. Image by Jason deCaires Taylor/Museum of Underwater Art

For its second phase, the museum will introduce the "Coral Greenhouse,” a 12-meter-high underwater structure, surrounded by sea-scaping and comprising nurseries, organic stems, and more. At once an art space and an underwater educational center, the greenhouse is designed to be a liveable habitat for marine life, its skeletal structure providing the optimal conditions for coral to grow and thrive.

coral nursery at the Museum of Underwater Art

Thanks to global warming, oceans are heating up, and major bleaching events have led to a dramatic drop in coral reproduction. Image by Jason deCaires Taylor/Museum of Underwater Art

Both pieces speak clearly to the crisis of climate change and reflect the artist’s determination to convey the urgency of that situation to a wider audience. “Our oceans are going through rapid change, and there are huge threats, from rising sea temperatures to acidification, and a large amount of pollution entering the system,” deCaires Taylor told the Guardian. “Part of creating an underwater museum is about changing our value systems – thinking about the sea floor as something sacred, something that we should be protecting and not taking for granted.”