Marina Abramović Created a Poster for an Italian Sailing Event. The Far-Right Wants to Censor It as ‘Propaganda’

Local far-right politicians are calling the poster "political propaganda."

Marina Abramović designed this poster with Illycaffè creative director Carlo Bach for the 50th Barcolana regatta. Image courtesy of Barcolana/art director Matteo Bartoli.

Is a Marina Abramović poster created for Italy’s Barcolana sailing regatta too political? The design, unveiled in July, shows the artist waving a large white flag reading “We’re all in the same boat.” Now, the poster is under fire from Trieste’s deputy mayor, Paolo Polidori, of the far-right Lega party, for resembling Communist imagery of China’s Mao Zedong—and for its perceived pro-immigrant message.

“[It is ] unacceptable, in bad taste, immoral to make political propaganda out of an event, the Barcolana, that belongs to the entire city,” wrote Polidori on Facebook, as reported by the Art Newspaper.

Founded in 1969, the regatta, which takes place off the coast of Trieste October 5–14, is one of the world’s biggest sailing events with some 2,000 boats. Each year, the Barcolana commissions a different artist to make a poster for the event. Abramović’s effort, a collaboration with the coffee brand Illy, will represent the regatta’s 50th edition.

According to Barcolana, the poster’s message is meant to “stress a simple but crucial aspect: even on different boats, when we compete for the best result, we sail on the same planet, which needs to be guarded and protected daily.”

Sailboats in the Barcolana regatta. Photo courtesy of Barcolana.

Sailboats in the Barcolana regatta. Photo courtesy of Barcolana.

It isn’t environmentalism that offends Polidori, however. He sees a different meaning, one that condemns the Lega party’s recent decision, announced by foreign minister and party leader Matteo Salvini, to close Italian ports to migrant rescue ships.

The poster’s slogan is undoubtedly one of solidarity, and it isn’t much of a stretch to suggest that Abramović might want viewers to be more sympathetic to migrants, given the ongoing refugee crisis. Even the regatta itself hasn’t ruled out that the poster might have other meanings.

“Everyone will give their own interpretation of the content,” said Barcolana president Mitja Gialuz in a statement at the time of the poster’s unveiling.

Sailboats in the Barcolana regatta. Photo courtesy of Barcolana.

Sailboats in the Barcolana regatta. Photo courtesy of Barcolana.

Polidori called for a ban on the use of the poster and demanded that it be removed from all invitations and promotional materials for the regatta. If his demands aren’t met, Polidori told La Repubblica, the city council would withdraw its €30,000 ($34,230) funding from the event.

Whether or not Polidori’s censorship efforts have been successful remains unclear. According to the Art Newspaper, the politician recently wrote on Facebook that “the poster…a horrible as well as misleadingly political work, will not be present on the territory of Trieste.” The regatta sent VICE a press release insisting that, on the contrary, the poster is not being censored and will be used as planned.

As of press time, Abramović had not responded to artnet News’s request for comment.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics