Red Regatta

In May 2019, during the vernissage of the Venice Biennale, artist Melissa McGill will launch Red Regatta, an unprecedented series of large-scale choreographed regattas of traditional vela al terzo sailboats. The sailboats, hoisted with hand-painted red sails, will activate Venice’s lagoon and waterways. The project unites Venetians and visitors to celebrate the cultural and maritime history of this iconic city and call attention to the forces of climate change and mass tourism that threaten its future. Red Regatta is presented in collaboration with Associazione Vela al Terzo Venezia and more than 250 local partners, led by McGill, curator Chiara Spangaro, and project manager Marcella Ferrari, and is co-organized by Magazzino Italian Art Foundation. Unfolding in multiple parts over the duration of the Biennale, artist-led workshops and public programs developed in collaboration with
No Longer Empty will 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. A meditation on Venice’s fragile future, Red Regatta invites local residents and visitors alike to consider the impact of sea level rise and mass tourism in a city that lives and works by water yet is at risk of being overtaken by it. In light of Red Regatta’s remarkable sustainability certification and thematic concerns, No Longer Empty is thrilled to continue the work we began with Mel Chin’s Wake and Unmoored in addressing the ocean and climate change through site-responsive public programs.

The local communities of Venice are central to Central Red Regatta. From the beginning, McGill will work alongside local high school and university students to paint the sails with vibrant red pigments linked to Venetian history and the palette of the city. Other local collaborators include boat owners, captains, crews, sailmakers, business owners, and resident associations, among others.  

No Longer Empty Chief Curator, Manon Slome, comments:

Red Regatta is a public project born out of the very soul and physical reality of Venice.  All too often, Venice has been but an elegant and fantastical background to the international festivals that take place here.  But Red Regatta, from the start, will involve the residents of the city in the planning and production of the work.  A well-publicized Open House, led by the artist, will introduce the concept to the city while workshops during the run of Red Regatta will ensure that everyone, from local families to international visitors alike,  can find a way to engage with the project and the wonders of the city from which it rose”

With this spirit of collaboration, 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 hand-painted sailsin varied red huesglide together in evanescent performances, readily visible from vistas throughout the city. These include four regattas in the Bacino di San Marco of approximately 50 traditional vela al terzo sailboats and a series of smaller regattas sailing in routes mapped by McGill and local sailors. Additional performances will extend beyond the lagoon and into the canals through November 2019.

Read the full Red Regatta Press Release.



Melissa McGill, Red Regatta (Coppa del Presidente della Repubblica), 2018
Unique framed archival digital C-print with pigment
60 x 36 in. (152.4 x 91.4 cm)

Artist rendering currently on view at Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in Cold Spring, NY