Sunken art to become new Algarve attraction
Photo: José Pando Lucas

Sunken art to become new Algarve attraction

Artworks will be sunken to create an underwater exhibition off the coast of Praia de Santa Eulália in Albufeira

An exhibition currently on show in Lisbon features some of the artwork by Portuguese artist Vhils that will later be submerged off Albufeira coast to create a unique underwater art gallery.

Before the artworks are submerged off Santa Eulália beach, they can be admired at the headquarters of national electricity company EDP in Lisbon. The exhibition is open to the public for free until April 15.

The project is a partnership between Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto (better known as Vhils) and EDP, which challenged the artist to use old parts from deactivated EDP plants to create thirteen artworks, which will be sunken to create what they call an “new artificial reef.”

Photo: José Pando Lucas

“As part of its commitment to be 100% green until 2030 and stop producing energy using fossil fuels, EDP challenged Vhils to develop an artistic project with parts which in the past were used to produce electricity. Now that these plants are being decommissioned to make room for renewable energy projects and innovation hubs, these parts will also gain new life,” EDP says.

Throughout the last three years, Vhils Studio and over 200 people from several teams visited the decommissioned plants to come up with the creative concept of ‘EDP Art Reef’, choose the materials and decide how to use them.

The “new artificial reef” will be located off the central Algarve coast, 12 metres deep, and, of course, will only be visible underwater, the company adds.

“This project carries a strong message, both in terms of raising awareness about the need to use resources responsibly as well as to highlight environmental issues caused by human activities, which need urgent action,” Vhils says.

“The idea was to come up with innovative ways of being in harmony with nature. Transforming these materials and placing them in an ecosystem which is conducive to the growth of coral reefs, creating habitats for several types of marine fauna and flora, is an example of this approach, and I hope it is the first of many steps towards a more sustainable future,” he adds.

The team behind the project say that the goal is to “confront the public with the consequences of mankind’s actions, the growing instability of the aquatic environment, the effects of climate change and the importance of reversing its impact on the planet.”

Photo: José Pando Lucas

According to EDP’s executive board member Vera Pinto Pereira, the company believes “now is the time to write in stone that we are committed to future generations.”

It has never been so important to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources, promote energetic transition and ensure that this is done fairly and inclusively,” says Vera Pinto Pereira.

“EDP Art Reef, a pioneering project created by a big contemporary art name, is an homage to the past of the electrical sector and our country, but it is also a commitment to the future of all of us,” she adds.

EDP stresses that the project was approved by competent authorities, which “concluded that it will not have a negative impact on the ecosystem” and will “represent an environmental asset contributing positively to the development of the local ecosystem.”

Under the supervision of marine biologists involved with the project, each work of art was created to “allow fauna to swim through”, while living corals which were rescued and kept in captivity will be placed at the underwater exhibition.

Photo: José Pando Lucas

The area will be monitored throughout the years and available for “scientific and environmental studies,” the company guarantees.

EDP also stresses that this project will “transform the region of the Algarve into an important destination for recreational diving.”

The project was developed with the support of Albufeira Council, national tourism authority Turismo de Portugal, the University of the Algarve’s Sea Science centre (CCMar) and approved by the Board of Natural Resources (DGRM) and the Portuguese Environmental Agency. The sinking of the artworks has received a green light from the Institute for Nature and Forest Conservation and the National Maritime Authority.

By Michael Bruxo

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