Melissa McGill: Red Regatta
Magazzino Italian Art
Red Regatta is an independent public art project created by artist Melissa McGill that will activate Venice’s lagoon and canals with large-scale regattas of traditional vela al terzo sailboats hoisted with hand-painted red sails. Unfolding in multiple parts from May through November 2019 over the duration of the 58th Venice Biennale, the Red Regatta convenes more than two hundred and fifty Venetian partners working closely with the artist, ranging from local sailors and artisans to art students, to present an unprecedented spectacle that calls awareness to the central issues that face Venice and its residents today: the displacement of local inhabitants due to the imminent threat of climate change and sea level rise and mass tourism to the region.
Venetians have been sailing the vela al terzo boats in the city’s waterways and lagoon for over a thousand years. Designed with a flat bottom and removable mast to navigate Venice’s terrain, vela al terzo boats traditionally carry sails painted with identifying graphics in earthy colors, representing each sailor’s family. In Red Regatta, each boat will have sails hand-painted in unique shades of red, developed by McGill. As the boats glide though the lagoon in unison against the sky, sea, and cityscape, the reds reference the forces of life and passion, of alarm and urgency, and Venice itself—from its bricks and terra cotta rooftops, to its flag and history of trade in red pigment, to paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, and other masters of the Veneto tradition.
Red Regatta draws attention to the delicate and liminal relationship between Venice’s built and natural environments, between land and sea, and between humanity and nature itself. The performative regattas will comprise approximately fifty vela al terzo vessels, sailing in routes predetermined by the McGill and the local sailors to be visible in accessible vistas throughout the city. Additional happenings of smaller-scale vela al terzo regattas will occur in historic locations to be announced. McGill will host programming and workshops to bring the Venetian community together and spur global conversation on project themes. The Red Regatta invites audiences to engage deeply with the traditions that have shaped life in Venice for a millennium.
The Red Regatta is the first artwork to be registered as a Clean Regatta and is made possible through an ongoing partnership with the Associazione Vela al Terzo Venezia, an organization that is dedicated to preserving this storied maritime tradition. Members of the association will sail their boats through the duration of the project, some bringing their own vessel passed down over generations.
McGill is a New York-based artist who previously lived in Venice and remains in close contact with the city. The Red Regatta emerges from the artist’s history of social practice projects. Working with curator Chiara Spangaro and project manager Marcella Ferrari, the project is co-organized by Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in Cold Spring, NY. Additional partners include No Longer Empty and Fractured Atlas, amongst others.
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