A poster designed by the artist Marina Abramovic for the Barcolana sailing regatta in the Gulf of Trieste has sparked a political row in Italy, as the city’s right-wing deputy mayor raised objections to its slogan of solidarity: “We’re all in the same boat”.
Every year, the event’s organisers commission an artist to create the poster for the historic race, which was first held in 1969 in northern Italy and has become one of the world’s biggest sailing regattas. Abramovic’s design for the 50th edition this October—developed in collaboration with the coffee brand Illy—was unveiled in July as a “universal” message promoting respect for the environment.
But weeks after Italy’s foreign minister and leader of the far-right Lega party, Matteo Salvini, had announced that Italian ports would be closed to migrant rescue ships, Trieste’s Lega deputy mayor, Paolo Polidori, took to Facebook to criticise Abramovic’s poster. Polidori wrote that it was: “Unacceptable, in bad taste, immoral to make political propaganda out of an event, the Barcolana, that belongs to the entire city”. In another post, he compared the poster to a Communist image of Chairman Mao Zedong.
According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Polidori said that the poster should be removed from leaflets, invitations and official brochures and “banned: in Trieste and the rest of the world”. He reportedly threatened to withdraw city council funding for the event totalling €30,000.
Last week, Polidori said on Facebook that the issue had been resolved a month ago and that “the poster…a horrible as well as misleadingly political work, will not be present on the territory of Trieste”. He denied having threatened to pull funding from the Barcolana. When asked if he approved of Abramovic’s poster, he declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for the regatta insists that the poster has not been withdrawn or censored and stresses that it will be used for “national and international” marketing of the Barcolana as planned. Abramovic was unavailable for comment.
UPDATE (14 August): Abramovic has since declined to comment.