An underwater museum may sound fun in theory, but the story behind Europe's first submerged sculpture exhibition is quite somber. The Museo Atlántico, on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, features an impressive collection of sculptures by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, explains PBS News Hour. The sculptures, which depict refugees, are completely under the surface — visitors will have to don scuba gear to see them when the Museo Atlántico opens on Feb. 25.
DeCaires Taylor has created similar underwater-sculpture projects in bodies of water in Mexico and the Bahamas, as well as in England's River Thames. The Lanzarote project, which PBS News Hour reports is funded by the government, focuses on Europe's refugee crisis and includes several installations of refugee sculptures. One installation — "The Raft of Lampedusa" — is an updated take on "The Raft of the Medusa," a Romantic painting by French artist Théodore Géricault. "Drawing parallels between the abandonment suffered by sailors in his shipwreck scene and the current refugee crisis, the work is not intended as a tribute or memorial to the many lives lost but as a stark reminder of the collective responsibility of our now global community," deCaires Taylor wrote in a Facebook post about the installation. The Museo Atlántico's other installation, The Rubicon, features sculptures of 35 people walking toward a gate and represents climate change. The underwater sculptures are also intended to help the organisms living in the waters that are home to the museum. The sculptures are made of pH-neutral marine cement to attract sea creatures and promote coral growth, BBC News explains. Check out a behind-the-scenes look at the museum in the video below: