Police officers wielding saws, pickaxes, and ropes have destroyed the world's first semi-submerged sculpture park.
Located in the Maldives, Coralarium—which Frommer's covered this summer when the work opened to the public—was an over-/underwater project designed by British-born artist Jason deCaires Taylor to be explored by swimmers and snorkelers. It stood amid calm waters belonging to the luxe Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi resort.
The Maldivian government objected to the piece, according to Al Jazeera, because it incorporated around 30 concrete statues, many of them modeled on local residents.
To some religious leaders in this predominantly Islamic nation of atolls floating in the Indian Ocean, Coralarium's human figures were an affront to Islam's ban on idols.
Fighting for reelection, the country's autocratic president, Abdulla Yameen, sided with the work's religious critics, ordering police to bust it up. (If Yameen thought that would help him in the election, he was mistaken—he lost).
On the Maldives' police Twitter account, photos were posted on September 21 showing the destruction of several of the statues:
Taylor, the artist, for whom such images can't be easy viewing, released this statement, according to Smithsonian magazine:
"I was extremely shocked and heartbroken to learn that my sculptures have been destroyed by the Maldivian Authorities at the Coralarium, despite continued consultations and dialogue. The Coralarium was conceived to connect humans to the environment and a nurturing space for marine life to thrive. Nothing else! The Maldives is still beautiful, with a warm and friendly population but it was a sad day for art and sad day for the environment.”
The resort, for its part, told NPR that although the statues were toppled, the installation's cube structure and "underwater coral boulevard" are still intact, and plans for a new exhibit at the site are already underway.