Red Rover Red Rover

Red Regatta brings a sea of color to the Venice lagoon

Preview performance of Melissa McGill’s Red Regatta on May 11, 2019 in front of the Associazione Vela al Terzo on the North Lagoon at Fondamente Nove. (Matteo De Fina)

One of the world’s great liminal conditions is the space between the viewer and the backdrops along the major canals of Venice, Italy. In most spots along the city’s waterfront edge, the view continues across the canals to architectural and historical layers of magnificent facades. It is a contained view of such sublime beauty, that despite the age-old clichés of Venice, it reminds us why we continue to believe in the power of architecture and the city.

But, there are wide and expansive vistas out across the open waters of the lagoon that are as equally as captivating. One thinks, for example, of the view from the quarter around the Giardini towards the Lido and San Giorgio Maggiore, or from the Fondamenta Nove towards the Cemetery of San Michele, that opens up to grand vistas that merge the sky and sea; off in the far distance, hints of outer islands add to the beauty of the setting.

Now Red Regatta, a series of performances, or “choreographed regattas,” of up to 52 vela al terzo (traditional flat-bottomed sailboats) is being staged in “La Serenissima” by a group of 250 local partners. The event is organized by the Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in New York to highlights the city’s open vistas.

Red sailboats docked in front of a brick building

Red Regatta vela al terzo sailboats in front of Ocean Space, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, during the Red Regatta Open House. (Giovanni Pellegrini)

Artist Melissa McGill and curator Chiara Spangaro have painted the sails on the boats a bright red color to activate them in the open water of the lagoon. Pageants like Red Regatta are spectacular in the waters of Venice, and this one, its creators believe, staged using only wind-powered sailboats, is intended to “encourage a new appreciation of the interaction of the defining forces of Venice, water, wind art, architecture.”

Further, McGill believes that this piece will also “call attention to the forces of climate change, and tourism.” It’s hard to see how this piece will draw prolonged interest in solving these long-suffering issues, but Red Regatta proudly includes Venetians as the performers in the boats, and that’s a great accomplishment for the city in itself. The dates of the special regatta, organized alongside the city’s ongoing art biennale, are as follow:

Red Regatta 
June 30, 2019, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Route: 
San Servolo – Poveglia

Viewing locations: Riva dei Sette Martiri; Viale Giardini Pubblici; San Servolo Island; Lido’s Lagoon waterfront

From McGill: “Navigating the waters between the islands of San Servolo and Poveglia, Red Regatta will weave through the historic landscape and activate the architecture with the choreographed flotilla. Starting between San Servolo and Venice, Red Regatta will move towards Poveglia, in parallel to the Lagoon coast of Lido.”

Red Regatta, coinciding with Venice’s Regata Storica
September 1, 2019, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Route: 
Canale della Giudecca – Bacino San Marco – Canal Grande

Viewing locations: Fondamenta Zattere; Punta della Dogana; Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore; Piazza San Marco and Riva degli Schiavoni; Fondamenta della Giudecca, side of Canale della Giudecca Canal Grande

A fleet of red sailboats on a canal

Preview performance of Melissa McGill’s Red Regatta on May 11, 2019 in front of the Associazione Vela al Terzo on the North Lagoon at Fondamente Nove. (Matteo De Fina)

Red Regatta 
September 15, 2019, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Route: 
Burano – Torcello

Viewing locations: Burano waterfront; Torcello waterfront

From McGill: “Concurrently with the historic Regata di Burano, which features the centuries-old tradition of the voga alla veneta, Red Regatta will move through the Northern lagoon between Burano and Torcello. Engaging with the landscape of this unique section of Venice with its ancient Roman ruins and distinctive architecture, the vela al terzo fleet will weave through the islands and call attention to the location’s history and traditions.”

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