The Why?s Man

"My art is place specific and people specific." George Wyllie

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MONDAY, JULY 16, 1990


Laugh You May, but Remember,

It's Floating and the Titanic Isn't

By Robin Goldwyn Blumenthal

Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal

NEW YORK - A 120-foot vessel billed as the world's largest paper boat has completed its maiden trans-Atlantic voyage guided by an albatross.

Well, the boat LOOKS like a paper hat, with a high peak in the middle and a high point on each end. It DID cross the Atlantic, albeit in the hold of a ship. An albatross (a sculpture) WAS part of its cargo.

The Origami Line boat, dubbed the QM - which could stand for Queen Mother or Question Mark - will be gawked at for a week or so in the North Cove yacht basin on the Hudson River near the southern tip of Manhattan. That's just fine with its creator and captain, sculptor George Wyllie. Stretching the imagination is part of the motive for building the boat, he says.

The 69-year old Mr Wyllie, a Scotsman who served with the Royal Navy and as a customs officer before turning to art full-time, says the boat "is as near to paper as you can get it to be," given its size.

Mr Wyllie won't identify the "top-secret" special translucent material; but he says it's "like paper yet not quite like paper - like some newspapers are not quite like newspapers." Inside the boat is the "engine," a big question mark.

The boat was conceived for Glasgow's 1989 Mayfest to underscore the erosion of Britain's maritime pre-eminence and the decline in shipbuilding on the River Clyde.

For U.S. consumption, the boat's manifest includes notations from Adam Smith, the Scottish economist who penned "The Wealth of Nations". Mr Wyllie says Wall Street has forgotten "The Theory of Moral Sentiments", Mr Smith's companion treatise on conscience and morality.

A paper boat is "something poetic, something we all enjoyed, or should have enjoyed, when we were young," he says.


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