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The Treasure of Lima: A Buried Exhibition

Adventure stories of buried treasure on tropical islands are, for the majority of us, the stuff of fantasy. The idea of inheriting a treasure map and embarking on a quest for fame and fortune reads like a chapter from a swashbuckling novel or a scene reserved from an adventure movie.

Well, that was until the Tyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Academy (TBA21-Academy)launched the Treasure of Lima: A Buried Exhibition. The project is based around the idea of burying a vacuum sealed container, holding numerous contemporary art by artists such as Marina AbramovicEd Ruscha and Doug Aitken, at a secret location on the Isla del Coco, Costa Rica. The container, designed by New York Architects Aranda/Lasch, has been created to maintain the physical condition of the artwork and made of inert natural material that will not harm the environment that it is buried in.

The Isla del Coco has been the source of inspiration for many legends and stories, most famously, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. However, the island itself has a very real connection with buried treasure, in the form of the legend, Treasure of Lima; the saga of the British trader, Captain William Thompson, who supposedly buried Spanish ingots, coins and a gold statue of the Virgin Mary on Cocos around 1820. To this day, Captain Thompson’s treasure has never been discovered. Though, the island today is a protected National Park and has restricted access to only the Costa Rican Park Rangers.

The project was continued when the curators entrusted the Dutch artist, Constant Dullaart, and the German Cryptographer, Michael Wege, to create a physical piece that would reveal the GPS co-ordinates of the hidden treasure art stash. The information was digitally encrypted and laser cut into a steel cylinder, an artwork in itself. While the encrypted ‘map’ does not come with the vital encryption key, it stands the holder in a far better position than other potential treasure hunters. In November last year, at PHILIPS auction house in New York, a mystery bidder paid $185,000 for the cylinder and it’s all-important engravings.

The Treasure of Lima: A Buried Exhibition fuses together both the legendary Treasure Island narrative of Isla del Coco, with its real legal status of being a protected natural treasure. Proceeds from the exhibition’s auction will be donated to the marine protection of Isla Del Coco and raise awareness of the environmental issues currently affecting the island.

The vacuum sealed container being delivered to the island.

The vacuum sealed container being delivered to the island.

The closed view of the encrypted metal cylinder.

The closed view of the encrypted metal cylinder.

The open view of the encrypted mental cylinder.

The open view of the encrypted mental cylinder.

A view of the encryption code which has been laser cut into the metal cylinder.

A view of the encryption code which has been laser cut into the metal cylinder.

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