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Melissa McGill // Red Regatta

Artist Melissa McGill, based in NY, is an interdisciplinary artist who creates ambitious, large-scale site-specific public art projects. She incorporates sculptural elements, light and sound to present experiential works that connect us to rich overlooked histories and traditions, while heightening awareness of our surroundings.

Red Regatta is an independent public art project created by the artist that activates Venice’s lagoon and canals with 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. Co-organized by Magazzino Italian Art.

From May through October, artist Melissa McGill choreographed 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 filled 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 presented in collaboration with Associazione Vela al Terzo Venezia, co-organized by Magazzino Italian Art Foundation, and curated by Chiara Spangaro and project manager Marcella Ferrari.

Red Regatta commenced on May 8, 2019 with an artist talk and community open house at Ocean Space and a preview performative regatta on May 11 on the northern lagoon at Fondamente Nove. Additional regattas sailed at various points throughout the duration of Venice’s Biennale until October, including during the annual Regata Storica on September 1, 2019 in the Bacino di San Marco and the Regata di Burano on September 15, 2019. Each Red Regatta was visible in a different area of the lagoon across the city and ideal viewing locations were listed in an interactive map below.

In conjunction with the regattas, artist-led workshops and public programs developed in collaboration with partners, such as Ocean Space and The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, explored 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.

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