Red Regatta was an independent public art project created by artist Melissa McGill that activated Venice’s lagoon and canals with four large-scale regattas of traditional vela al terzo sailboats hoisted with hand-painted red sails. Presented in collaboration with Associazione Vela al Terzo, curated by Chiara Spangaro, with project manager Marcella Ferrari, the project was co-organized by Magazzino Italian Art, with support from Mazzoleni.
Red Regatta launched in May, 2019 and brought together members of the Venetian community and partners working closely with the artist, ranging from local sailors to artisans to art students, to present an unprecedented, site-specific performative work that celebrates local maritime culture and history and raises awareness about the balance between the city of Venice and the sea.
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 hoist sails painted with identifying graphics in earthy colors, representing each sailor’s family. In Red Regatta, each boat was rigged with sails hand-painted in distinct shades of red, developed by McGill. As the boats glided though the lagoon in unison set 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.
Red Regatta navigated the delicate and liminal relationship between Venice’s built and natural environments, between land and sea, and between humanity and nature. The performative regattas involved fifty-two vela al terzo vessels, sailing in routes mapped out by McGill and the local sailors to be visible from vistas circling the city, each in a different location. McGill presented programs and workshops with Ocean Space and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to bring the Venetian community together and spur conversations on project themes in relation to the traditions that have shaped life in Venice for a millennium.
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 sailed 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 continues to be engaged with the city. Red Regatta emerges from the artist’s history of social practice projects and previous work in Venice, such as her 2017 project The Campi. Red Regatta was led by McGill, curator Chiara Spangaro and project manager Marcella Ferrari, co-organized by Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in Cold Spring, NY, with support from Mazzoleni. Additional partners include Fractured Atlas, Università Iuav -Visual Arts Venezia, Golden Artist Colors, Inc., Sailors for Sea’s Clean Regattas Program, Spazio Thetis, Ocean Space, Vento di Venezia and Classic Boats Venice, The Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
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Melissa McGill is a New York based interdisciplinary artist known for ambitious, collaborative, site specific public art projects that explore the intersection of human culture and the natural world. McGill lived in Venice from 1991-93, and has re-turned regularly for inspiration, research and artistic collaborations for over two decades. Red Regatta is the artist’s second major project that raises awareness of Venetian life and culture. Her previous sculptural sound work, The Campi, May 2017, invoked daily life in the Venetian Campo and was presented at Carlo Scarpa’s Casa/Studio Scatturin, Università IUAV di Venezia and Giorgio Mastinu Fine Art in Venice, Italy. The Campi was curated by Chiara Spangaro and sponsored by Magazzino Italian Art. Constellation, 2015-2017, installed on an island in the Hudson River, New York, lit each night creating a new constellation transforming Bannerman castle ruin. McGill has been exhibiting her artwork nationally and internationally since 1991, including recent solo exhibitions at The Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, New York; TOTAH, New York; White Cube, London; Power House, Memphis; Palazzo Capello, Venice; and CRG Gallery, New York.
Chiara Spangaro, Curator. Chiara is an art historian and independent curator based in Milan. Operating in the fields of contemporary art, architecture and design, she is curator of Fondazione Aldo Rossi. In collaboration with Germano Celant, she served as the curatorial associate for the Art and Architecture department of Triennale di Milano, 2009-2012, as well as associated curator of exhibitions as: Arts & Foods, 2015, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Water Projects, 2016, Giovanni Gastel, 2016, Arman 1954-2005. 2017, Post Zang Tumb Tuuum, Art Life Politics: Italia 1918-1943, 2018, and more. In 2017 she curated Aldo Rossi e Milano and MelissaMcGill: The Campi and, in 2018, Gio Ponti. Archi-designer.
Marcella Ferrari, Project Manager. Marcella is a public art and land art project manager and producer. In 2004, she began working as a production assistant for Germano Celant and she continues to be General Manager of Studio Celant. In 2014, she was appointed the CEO of The Floating Piers Srl, the Italian company that organized the event and the construction of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work of art at Lake Iseo, Italy. She currently collaborates with Eight Art Project, as project manager, for the construction of Alberto Garutti’s works of art at Ca’ Corniani – Terra d’Avanguardia, Caorle, Italia, curated by Elena Tettamanti and Antonella Soldaini, commissioned by Generali Italia Spa.
Captured during Red Regatta’s performances in 2019 in Venice, these photographic works document the reflections of the red sails as they fleeted together across the Venetian lagoon. An immersive installation of these works was installed at Totah inviting viewers to be surrounded in Venice’s lagoon, bathing in the afterglow of the Red Regatta.
Box of Waves (Hudson River), 2021 is the first in a new series. a custom made blackened oak box contains a looped video of Hudson River waves and sunlight. The reflection of the video dances on the walls of the box and the sounds of the waves are amplified within it.Explore Project
Constellation was a large-scale sculptural project installed around the ruins of Bannerman’s Castle on Pollepel Island in the section of the Hudson River that passes through Hudson Highlands State Park. Every evening, as the sun went down, starry lights emerge one by one with the stars of the night sky, creating a new constellation and connecting past and present, light and dark, heaven and earth. The project launched in late June, 2015 and was on view through October 2017.Explore Project
It is a time of great change, and it is a time of listening deeply—to each other and to the sounds around us. In our suddenly quieter world, the sound of the birds can now be heard more clearly.
This online project invites you to stop and listen. Call and Response refers to the actual format of this project—my call and received responses from around the world—as well as themes of community, connection and conversation.
This series of two sided works on paper is a collaboration with writer Sam Anderson. He responded to Melissa McGill’s public art project, Constellation, with typewritten quotes and original pieces. McGill marked the typewritten pages with graphite, pastel, watercolor, Sumi Ink, and charcoal. Then, punching out the periods, punctuation, pauses and/or spaces in the written works with a Japanese hole punch, she created new constellations, illuminated when light shines through the pages.
This series of 100 works on paper is titled 100 Breaths (2016), shown here in a recent exhibition at David Weeks Studio . The artist made each drawing with her breath, blowing metal dust suspended in varnish to create drawings that refer to both geography and the body. The gold, copper and silver forms are highly responsive to ambient light and change throughout the day, as the light changes in the room. They flare up and soften as the viewer moves and looks at them from different angles.Explore Project
Palmas activated the Quarry Pool and encircling paths at Manitoga: The Russel Wright Design Center. It was a two part project : A surround sound installation and a live performance. The work takes its name from the improvised, rhythmic clapping that is an integral part – the heartbeat – of Flamenco. Palmas animated the site aurally, inviting a heightened sense of awareness of the site’s landscape.Explore Project
These digital renderings depict Melissa McGill’s proposal to erase the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant and replace it with cherry trees.Explore Project
The Belles forms are made from casts of the hollow interior spaces of 10 different female porcelain figurines. They are positive versions of these hidden empty spaces, which retain a faint and almost ghostly resemblance to their outer shells.
As viewers move around the space to ring The Belles, the work activates the space sonorously. The bell’s sound is juxtaposed with the figure’s abstraction, resonating from the form it once held.Explore Project
Slipside’s forms were created by casting the hollow interior spaces of ordinary, mass-market porcelain figurines. The results are positive versions of these empty spaces that possess a faint ghostly resemblance to their outer shells. The porcelain castings were made during two Arts/Industry residencies at Kohler in Wisconsin.Explore Project