Artist Melissa McGill Launches Large-Scale Public Art Project on Venice’s Lagoon and Canals
Created with the Associazione Vela al Terzo Venezia and Magazzino Italian Art Foundation, Red Regatta Celebrates Local Maritime History and Calls Attention to the Fragile Balance Between City of Venice and the Sea
From May through November, artist Melissa McGill is choreographing a series of large-scale regattas across Venice’s lagoon and canals in a major public art project that celebrates the city’s maritime history and calls attention to the forces of climate change and mass tourism that threaten its future. Unfolding in multiple parts, Red Regatta fills Venice’s waterways with 52 traditional vela al terzo sailboats, hoisted with hand-painted red sails. Bringing together over 250 local partners, Red Regatta is co-organized by Magazzino Italian Art Foundation, presented in collaboration with Associazione Vela al Terzo Venezia, and curated by Chiara Spangaro and project manager Marcella Ferrari.
Red Regatta commences on May 8 with an artist talk and community open house at Ocean Space and a preview regatta on May 11 on the northern lagoon at Fondamente Nove. Additional regattas will sail at various points throughout the duration of Venice’s Biennale until November, including during the annual Regata Storica in the Bacino di San Marco and the Regata di Burano in September. Red Regatta will be visible through vistas across the city and ideal viewing locations can be accessed in an interactive map on the artist’s website.
In conjunction with the regattas, artist-led workshops and public programs developed in collaboration with partners, such as Ocean Space and No Longer Empty, explore the project’s themes in relation to the traditions that have shaped Venetian life for a millennium. Red Regatta is the first artwork to be registered as a Clean Regatta, a program of Sailors for the Sea that mobilizes sailors to protect the ocean through education and activism.
Venice’s vela al terzo were designed with a flat bottom and removable mast to navigate the city’s waterways and have been sailed for more than a thousand years. As the boats glide though the lagoon in unison against the sky, sea, and cityscape, the reds reference forces of life and passion, 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 Venetian masters.
Details on Red Regatta programming confirmed to date follows below, with additional programs through November to be announced in the coming months.
Red Regatta Artist Talk and Open House
May 8, 2019, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Ocean Space, Chiesa di San Lorenzo (Castello 5069, 30122 Venezia)
The first official program of Red Regatta invites local Venetians and visitors alike to an Open House, organized with mission-aligned Ocean Space, that includes an artist talk, community reception, and the opportunity to see several participating sailboats up-close, moored in the canal in front of Campo di San Lorenzo.
Artist Melissa McGill, president of the Associazione Vela al Terzo Venezia Giorgio Righetti, and the director of TBA21–Academy Markus Reymann present a short program that will spur conversations on Red Regatta and the project’s core themes: the environment and maritime traditions that have shaped life in Venice for a millennium.
The Open House is presented in collaboration with Ocean Space, a new platform for oceanic research and artistic innovation in the recently revitalized Church of San Lorenzo. Additional Red Regatta programming developed with Ocean Space will be announced this summer.
Red Regatta Preview
May 11, 2019, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Route: Bacini - Fondamente Nove
Viewing locations: Fondamente Nove, from Fondamente Nove vaporetto stop to Ospedale vaporetto stop; Calle Giazzo, from Celestia vaporetto stop to Associazione Vela al Terzo headquarters
On May 11, the first public day of the Biennale, a preview performance of Red Regatta including more than 50 traditional vela al terzo sailboats, embarks on Venice’s northern lagoon between Fondamente Nove and Isola di San Michele. Audiences are encouraged to join the artist and sailors at a reception following the event at the Associazione Vela al Terzo headquarters.
June 30, 2019, 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Route: San Servolo – Poveglia
Viewing locations: Riva dei Sette Martiri; Viale Giardini Pubblici; San Servolo Island; Lido’s Lagoon waterfront
Navigating the waters between the islands of San Servolo and Poveglia, Red Regatta will weave through the historic landscape and activate the architecture with the choreographed flotilla. Starting between San Servolo and Venice, Red Regatta will move towards Poveglia, in parallel to the Lagoon coast of Lido.
Red Regatta, coinciding with Venice’s Regata Storica
September 1, 2019, 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Route: Canale della Giudecca – Bacino San Marco – Canal Grande
Viewing locations: Fondamenta Zattere; Punta della Dogana; Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore; Piazza San Marco and Riva degli Schiavoni; Fondamenta della Giudecca, side of Canale della Giudecca Canal Grande
Joining the annual Regata Storica, a celebration of Venetian maritime culture dating back to the 13th century, Red Regatta will stage an evanescent performance on the Canale della Giudecca and Bacino San Marco. Starting between Sacca Fisola and San Basilio, navigating the Canale della Giudecca, the performance will reach the Bacino San Marco between Punta della Dogana, Piazza San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore Island.
September 15, 2019, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Route: Burano – Torcello
Viewing locations: Burano waterfront; Torcello waterfront
Concurrently with the historic Regata di Burano, which features the centuries old tradition of the voga alla veneta, Red Regatta will move through the Northern lagoon between Burano and Torcello. Engaging with the landscape of this unique section of Venice with its ancient Roman ruins and distinctive architecture, the vela al terzo fleet will weave through the islands and call attention to the location’s history and traditions.