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

Some of the artworks which are going to be sunken to create an underwater exhibition off the coast of Praia de Santa Eulália in Albufeira – which has already received the green lights it needed from authorities – are currently on display at the headquarters of national electricity company EDP in Lisbon.

The exhibition will remain open until April 15 for everyone to visit for free, EDP says in a statement to the press.

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.

Each artwork has been created with the goal of helping create a “new artificial reef” at a depth of 12 metres. The future exhibition will only be visible underwater, the company adds.

“The idea of submerging artworks created from dismantled thermoelectric plants in the ocean carries a strong metaphorical load, both in terms of raising awareness about the need to use resources responsibly as well as to highlight environmental issues which need urgent action and were created due to human activity,” Vhils says.

“The goal of this project is to boost the development of innovative ways of creating systems which establish a relationship of harmony with nature. The transformation of these materials in an ecosystem which is conducive to the growth of coral reefs and the housing of several types of maritime fauna and flora is an example of this approach, and I hope it is the first of many steps towards a more conscientious and 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 administrator, the company believes “now is the time for it to be written in stone that we are committed to the future of coming 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 which will contribute positively to the development of the local ecosystem.”

At the behest of the marine biologists who are following the project, every artwork was created to “allow the passage of local fauna,” while living corals which were rescued and maintained 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 cultural 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

[email protected]

Portugal Resident