Red Regatta

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 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.

    To support Red Regatta, please click here.

    For press inquiries, please contact Juliet Vincente at [email protected] or 212.671.5154.

About the artist

  • 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.

About the team

  • 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 construction and the event of the work of art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude at Lake Iseo, Italy. She is currently the project manager for the construction of the Alberto Garutti works of art at Ca’ Corniani – Terra d’Avanguardia, Caorle, Italia, commissioned by Generali Italia Spa.


  • Associazione Vela al Terzo: Based in Venice, this historic sailing association is dedicated to supporting the “vela al terzo” tradition and spreading the knowledge of Venice’s Lagoon and its thousand-year seafaring tradition. For more than 1,000 years, traditional “vela al terzo” sailboats adapted to both the open sea and Venice’s Lagoon and canals, connecting the city and its people to trading partners and neighbors.

    Magazzino Italian Art: Red Regatta is co-organized by Magazzino Italian Art Foundation. Magazzino is a museum in Cold Spring, New York, devoted to Italian Postwar and Contemporary art. Magazzino, which means warehouse in Italian, was co-founded by Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu. Designed by Spanish architect Miguel Quismondo, the 20,000 square-foot structure was completed in June 2017. Magazzino serves as a resource for scholars and students and offers an extensive library and archive of Italian Art. In addition, Magazzino has become a cultural hub for the vibrant Hudson Valley community thanks to joint programs with local organizations. Under the guidance of Director Vittorio Calabrese, his team and its curatorial programs, Magazzino Italian Art Foundation bridges collaborations with American and Italian organizations not only to support contemporary Italian artists but also to foster discussions on Italian Postwar and Contemporary art in the United States.

    No Longer Empty: Based in New York City, No Longer Empty (NLE) is a nonprofit organization committed to bringing bold, site-responsive exhibitions and public programming to unconventional locations, foregrounding art as a catalyst for community-led conversations about place.

    Università Iuav di Venezia: One of the first Architecture Schools in Italy (established in 1926), the Università Iuav di Venezia is a ‘themed’ university totally focusing on design. It is a dedicated place for teaching, specialization, and field research in design of living spaces and environments — such as buildings, cities, landscapes, and territory —, as well as in the design of everyday use objects, fashion, graphics, and cultural, theatrical, multimedia events..