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by Norman Warwick  

Oswaldo Betancort and the artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, (left) have met to once again promote a unique museum in the world that is visited by more than 8,000 people a year. 

The Atlantic Museum located in Playa Blanca will “open its doors” again. This was reported by the Lanzarote Cabildo in an official statement in an act of cultural reopening that is preceded by a closure with a more political than touristic background. 

The underwater museum was closed in the last legislature by María Dolores Corujo in an “obsessive” action, as reported by the Canarian Coalition , by the former president of the Cabildo with her predecessor in office, Pedro San Ginés.

It was a very notorious closure that led to the removal of the figures  – dozens of statues were installed under the sea with unrecognizable faces of anonymous people – that bore the face of Ignacio Calatayud, a lawyer from San Ginés, for supposedly being a representation of corruption on the island. In this partisan dispute, the island suffered and the tourist sector that makes a living from scuba diving in the area raised its voice . More than 8,000 people came to Lanzarote annually to enjoy the charm of a unique museum in the world and this closure caused damage to the island economy.

For this reason, the Lanzarote Cabildo, currently led by Oswaldo Betancort, has decided to reopen the Atlantic Museum to advance a blue tourism model. 

The president of the Lanzarote Cabildo, Oswaldo Betancort, held a meeting recently with the British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, after which they announced the intention to reopen the Atlantic Museum, the only underwater museum in Europe, with the aim of moving towards a tourism model blue that turns the island into an international benchmark.

After the meeting, in which the CEO of the Lanzarote Foreign Promotion Society (SPEL-Turismo Lanzarote), Héctor Fernández, and the managing director of Promotur Canarias, José Juan Lorenzo, participated as a show of support for the project:- The island president highlighted the importance of resuming an initiative that places the island on the world map of sustainable tourist activities carried out in the seas and oceans.

“The project links a sculptural work as important as this one with the richness of the seabed of Lanzarote and La Graciosa, while allowing us to differentiate ourselves as a tourist destination from our competitors,” considered Oswaldo Betancort, highlighting the importance of the collaboration between the artist – whom he thanked for his visit to the Island Council – and the SPEL, so that the initiative soon becomes a reality.

Likewise, Héctor Fernández explained that a technical and legal working group will be created, in which the Cabildo, the SPEL and the artist will be present. “The purpose of this group will be to define a model and establish a schedule for the opening of the Museum; a reopening – he recalled – that is a repeated demand from the island’s diving clubs.”

For his part, Jason deCaires Taylor, who has returned to the island after five years, stated that “Lanzarote and La Graciosa are two very special places for his artistic project,” and emphasized that, “after this time without visiting the island , the Atlantic Museum continues to change daily, due to the dynamics of the marine ecosystem, so I will do a dive to find out its current state,” he assured. “Today we have begun a very constructive path of work with the island institution with a positive vision,” said the British sculptor.

The only underwater museum in Europe host statues and arts installations, such as the piece shown right, created by Jason deCaries Taylor.

The Atlantic Museum, in Playa Blanca, was inaugurated in 2016 and is the only underwater museum in Europe, where you can dive among the impressive sculptures of the artist Jason deCaires Taylor, known for his underwater creations. It is found at a depth between 12-14 meters.

It was developed as a huge artificial reef and consists of ten different groups of sculptures. So, for example, the Rubicon is a group of 35 sculptures of people walking towards a beautiful wall with an opening. The real residents of Lanzarote have been used as models for these sculptures. You can also see the famous Lampedusa raft, a reference to the refugee crisis in Europe. Another part of the museum is a group of children in small boats, called Los Jolateros.

Additionally, there are several images, which are half cactus and half human, that represent the intertwining between man and nature. In reference to modern society and technology, there are also sculptures of several photographers and a couple taking a selfie. In the Portal, a figure looks at a mirror in which the surface of the ocean is reflected. The Deregulated shows a playground where businessmen in suits play on a swing and see-saw.

The last group of sculptures shows about 200 figures of people arranged in a circle. With this impressive reef of images, the artist wants to draw attention to the beauty of the underwater world and the need to protect it.

The PSOE maintains that Betancort lies. 

The Socialist Group of the Cabildo denounces that the Atlantic Museum was never closed: “Oswaldo Betancort is lying”

Benjamín Perdomo: “The repeated lies to citizens can only be explained by a lack of management control and absence of an island project”

The Socialist Group of the Lanzarote Council has denounced that Oswaldo Betancort is lying when he claims that he has carried out the reopening of the Atlantic Museum. The advisor of the Socialist Group and former head of the Art, Culture and Tourism Centers of Lanzarote, Benjamín Perdomo, assures that the Museum has remained open during the previous legislature and the only measure that was taken was to eliminate the entrance fee.

“The President’s obsession with the Socialist Party is worrying. Not only does it denote a lack of control of the management he is carrying out and a total absence of an island project, but he has been repeatedly caught crossing the limits of respect and honesty lying to citizens,” said Perdomo.

“The President is free to create tourist campaigns with whatever color he wants and placing as the central axis a Museum that only receives around 20 visitors a day, but he should do so by putting solid arguments, not at the expense of the PSOE. It is time for Oswaldo Betancort to demonstrate that he has a project for Lanzarote and La Graciosa”, concluded Perdomo.

In 2006, Jason deCaires Taylor created the world’s first underwater sculpture park in Grenada. National Geographic considers this park to be one of the 25 wonders of the world. In 2009 he continued with MUSA, an underwater museum with more than 500 sculptures off the coast of Cancun in Mexico. These ambitious projects aim to achieve a positive interaction between people and the underwater world.
Jason deCaires Taylor’s art is unique and shows how man-made objects, once sunk in the ocean, become artificial reefs full of marine life. His art objects are therefore positive examples of nature conservation. His works contribute to improving environmental awareness and at the same time offer the opportunity to admire the natural beauty of the fascinating underwater world.

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