A luxury Maldives resort said Sunday it was “very surprised” by the removal of sculptures from an art installation.
Almost 30 sculptures were part of a semi-submerged gallery – the Coralarium – at the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi.
But the artwork was criticised by clerics and politicians, who said the human form sculptures were un-Islamic. On Friday police said the installation had been cleared out.
It was earlier claimed that authorities knew what would be in the Coralarium and that all the paperwork had been signed off.
The resort, which had been quiet about the controversy and the clearance, contacted the Maldives Independent with a statement.
“We are very surprised by the removal of eco-art pieces by the authorities. We respect the people, traditions and customs of the Maldives,” it said.
“The removal process was peaceful and friendly, without interruption to our world famous service.
“The Coralarium structure and underwater trees remain intact, ensuring the coral restoration program remains alive and well. We have initiated immediate re-imagination plans with the artist, creating a new underwater gallery that will be in harmony with the locals and environment.”
The artist and Coralarium creator, Jason deCaires Taylor, said he was “extremely shocked and heartbroken” to learn his work had been destroyed “despite continued consultations and dialogue.”
“The Coralarium was conceived to connect humans to the environment and a nurturing space for marine life to thrive,” he posted on Instagram. “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.”