Dazzled by a Fireboat

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During World War I, British painter Norman Wilkinson designed bold, high-contrast paint patterns to camouflage Allied ships and confuse enemy submarines. Now, a similar paint scheme has turned a retired New York City fireboat into a floating art project that was created to commemorate the end of the World War I centennial on November 11, 2018.

Two public arts groups, Public Art Fund and 14-18 NOW, funded “Flow Separation,” an exhibition by New York-based artist Tauba Auerbach. Inspired by Wilkinson, Auerbach painted the 1931 fireboat John J. Harvey in a contemporary “dazzle camouflage” pattern. AkzoNobel, a global paints and coatings company, supplied the paint.

During the summer and fall, the fireboat provided rides from docks around New York Harbor. This winter and spring, the boat is expected to dock at its home location at Hudson River Park’s Pier 66 in Chelsea, where she will be displayed as a floating sculpture. (publicartfund.org) —Pim Van Hemmen

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue.