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.
Red Regatta will launch in May, 2019 and will unfold in multiple parts over the duration of the 58th Venice Biennale. The project will convene more than two hundred and fifty Venetian partners working closely with the artist, ranging from local sailors to artisans to art students, to present an unprecedented, site-specific performative work that calls attention to the central issues that face Venice today: the displacement of its residents due to the imminent threat of climate change, 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 hoist sails painted with identifying graphics in earthy colors, representing each sailor’s family. In Red Regatta, each boat will have sails hand-painted in distinct shades of red, developed by McGill. As the boats glide 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 navigates the delicate and liminal relationship between Venice’s built and natural environments, between land and sea, and between humanity and nature. The performative regattas will comprise approximately fifty vela al terzo vessels, sailing in routes mapped out by McGill and the local sailors to be visible from vistas circling the city. Additional happenings of smaller-scale vela al terzo regattas will be mounted in historic locations to be announced. McGill is hosting programs and workshops 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 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 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. The Red Regatta project is led by McGill, curator Chiara Spangaro and project manager Marcella Ferrari and is co-organized by Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in Cold Spring, NY. Additional partners include No Longer Empty, Fractured Atlas, and Golden Artist Colors, Inc.
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Melissa McGill is an interdisciplinary artist who creates ambitious, large-scale site-specific art projects, and works in a variety of media, including photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, sound, light and immersive installation. Her works connect viewers to overlooked histories and traditions, explores the conversation between the visible and the invisible, and heightens awareness of our surroundings. Based in New York, 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 Francesco Pantaleone Arte Contemporanea, Milan; 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.
Constellation is 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 goes 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.Explore Project
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.Explore Project
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