The contemporary ‘dazzle ships’ moored on the rivers of Liverpool, Edinburgh and London to mark the First World War centenary have become familiar to millions. These brightly coloured boats pay homage to the hundreds of ships that were ‘dazzled’ during the First World War. Now the Dazzle Ship project moves to the United States, with a new commission by American artist Tauba Auerbach in New York City.
Inspired by dazzle as a technology, the artist will transform a decommissioned fireboat, the historic John J. Harvey, into a floating artwork. The idea of ’dazzle’, an experimental camouflage painted on to the surface of ships, was pioneered by British artist Norman Wilkinson, who prepared numerous designs for vessels, including US merchant ships, targeted by enemy U-boats. Drawing on avant-garde artistic movements such as Cubism and Vorticism, as well as animal camouflage, these bewildering shapes and angles were designed to confuse the enemy as they struggled to make out the dazzle ships against shifting waves and clouds.
Public Art Fund and 14-18 NOW’s transformation of the fireboat into a dazzle ship by Auerbach will give the city a new riverside landmark, commemorating the centenary of Armistice and the innovation of dazzle.
Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Public Art Fund
Dazzle Ship series co-commissioned with Liverpool Biennial
Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies