Blog focused on artists who examine, move over, look at, work with, journey on, use metaphorically, or create new connections to water, rivers, lakes, oceans, or boats.

artnet: Melissa McGill Has Tapped Into Venice’s Rich Maritime History With 100 Hand-Painted Sails That Will Float Through Venice During the Biennale

Artist Melissa McGill will stage four regattas throughout the course of the biennale.

An article in artnews by Sarah Cascone.

Melissa McGill with one of the boats for her project  Red Regatta . Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Melissa McGill with one of the boats for her project Red Regatta. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

For two years, artist Melissa McGill has had a vision: A fleet of traditional wooden boats, rigged with sails in shades of vivid crimson, sailing across the Venetian lagoon. Tomorrow, that vision will finally come to life in the inaugural outing of Red Regatta, a public art project that is both a celebration of the city’s maritime history and a cautionary tale about the effects of climate change and mass tourism.

“It’s all about the wind and the waters, and this rich sailing culture,” McGill told artnet News. “Sailing is an environmentally friendly tradition. The motor boats throw wake that eats away at the city.”

When we met, she was preparing to set sail on Borin, one of the 52 locally owned boats that will take part in Red Regatta. The boat’s captain, a Venetian native in his 70s named Giorgio Giacometti, was hoisting the bright red sails. Th boats were custom-made for the project, and hand-painted by local college students and other volunteers.

“It became this huge community bonding thing. It was really magical,” McGill said. To paint the sails, her team used large paintbrushes and brooms. “They’re very expressive brushstrokes, so when the sails are raised and the light comes through, it becomes a painting.”

Red Regatta  sail painting workshop in Spazio Thetis, Venice, March 2019. Photo by Melissa McGill, Marcella Ferrari, and Luca Marella, courtesy of the artist.

Red Regatta sail painting workshop in Spazio Thetis, Venice, March 2019. Photo by Melissa McGill, Marcella Ferrari, and Luca Marella, courtesy of the artist.

Melissa McGill with one of the boats for her project  Red Regatta . Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Melissa McGill with one of the boats for her project Red Regatta. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

“A huge part of this project is to connect the visitors and the people who live here. There’s one Venetian for something like every 350 tourists,” McGill said. “The vela al terzo is a really important tradition, and they’re really excited about sharing it more widely.”

The red color represents both a sense of strong emotions and the city of Venice itself, with its red-brick buildings and terracotta roofs, its flag, its historic trade in Venetian red pigment, and the use of red in the work of local Old Masters such as Titian and Tintoretto.

Melissa McGill with one of the boats for her project  Red Regatta . Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Melissa McGill with one of the boats for her project Red Regatta. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Regatta will offer a striking visual spectacle ripe for Instagram, but it also presents a picture both of Venice’s past, and of an alternate future, should the city survive the threat of climate change.

Read the full article at artnet.

“Melissa McGill: Red Regatta” is on view in the north lagoon in Venice, May 11, 2 p.m.–4 p.m. Viewing points are along the Fondamente Nove, from Fondamente Nove vaporetto stop to Ospedale vaporetto stop; Calle Giazzo, from Celestia vaporetto stop to Associazione Vela al Terzo headquarters. A reception with the artist will follow at the Associazione Vela al Terzo headquarters, Calle Giazzo 30122, Venice. 

The June 30 Red Regatta will sail along the Lido between the islands of San Servolo and Poveglia, 12 p.m.–2 p.m. Viewing locations are Riva dei Sette Martiri, Viale Giardini Pubblici, San Servolo Island, and Lido’s Lagoon waterfront.

The September 1 Red Regatta will sail along Canale della Giudecca, Bacino San Marco, and Canal Grande, 12 p.m.–2 p.m. Viewing points are Fondamenta Zattere, Punta della Dogana, Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Piazza San Marco, Riva degli Schiavoni, Fondamenta della Giudecca, side of Canale della Giudecca Canal Grande.

The September 15 Red Regatta will sail between Burano and Torcello, 2 p.m.–4 p.m. Viewing points are the Burano waterfront and Torcello waterfront.