Asia Life

Sleeping Beauty on the Seabed: Underwater Art on Display in the Maldives

Austrian artist juxtaposes fairytale characters with aquatic landscapes.

J.T. Quigley
Sleeping Beauty on the Seabed: Underwater Art on Display in the Maldives
Credit: @Exceptional_UK

Divers were required to set up surreal underwater art galleries in the Maldives, viewable only from venues that are located beneath the ocean’s surface.

Viennese photographer Andreas Franke’s submerged show, titled Phantasy Fairytale, is currently underway at two of the island nation’s most exclusive resorts: Huvafen Fushi, the honeymoon destination for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and NIYAMA.

“The exhibition magically combines photography, nautical exploration and digital mastery to produce compelling underwater dream worlds where Western fairytale characters are creatively superimposed against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean,” said a statement from Per AQUUM, the parent company of both resorts. “Each piece … blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy, with saltwater and algae adding the final artistic touches.”

Some of the iconic fairytale characters – captured wandering through enchanting forests of coral and aquatic greenery – include Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, the Last Unicorn, the Snow Queen and the orphan girl from Grimm’s “The Star Money.”

Divers positioned the works outside the windows of Huvafen Fushi’s LIME Spa and NIYAMA’s Subsix music club.

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“With my photographs, I want to pull the spectators into unreal and strange worlds,” Franke said. “Mystified scenes of a fairytale play within a fictional space. Dream worlds you can get lost in, or that you can identify with. This creates a new and unexpected atmosphere. This work shows very much of myself, since I am always on the lookout for stunning themes to create new images that have never been seen before.”

The artist, also an avid diver, sealed each work in stainless steel and Plexiglas frames. Pieces on display at Huvafen Fushi measure 110 cm by 73.5 cm and are offered for sale at $12,000 each. The 150 cm by 110 cm pieces being shown at NIYAMA will cost potential buyers $15,000 each.

Phantasy Fairytale isn’t Franke’s first undersea art exhibit; but it is the first that doesn’t require scuba gear. In 2011, he turned the Vandenberg shipwreck off Key West, Florida into a dive-up gallery. He combined photographs of the decaying former military vessel with scenes of ordinary life. In one image, a girl runs along the deck chasing tiny fish with a butterfly net.

The first-of-its-kind display, located at a depth of 93 feet, was titled Vandenberg: Life Below the Surface.

“Even though there is so much life, marine life, all over and around it, the shipwreck itself, to me, is a dead thing,” Franke told MyModernMet. “But I thought that if I put people on it, then there would again be life on that ship.”

Unlike the Vandenberg exhibit, however, visitors are barred from diving near the works.

Each resort is offering special four-night packages for travelers hoping to catch a glimpse of the sunken art – ranging from approximately $900 to $1200 per night.