Friday, December 8, 2023

Büchel’s Mosque at the Venice Biennale Shut Down by City Officials

Iceland’s official contribution to the 56th Venice Biennale, a temporary, working mosque set up in a deconsecrated church created by Christoph Büchel, was shut down by city officials last week, only two weeks after it opened. The installation, “THE MOSQUE: The First Mosque in the Historic City of Venice,” was constructed inside the 10th century church, Santa Maria dell’Abbazia della Misericordia, and became the first ever mosque in the historic center of Venice. The interior of the church was transformed with prayer carpet, mihrab, calligraphic cartouches, and wudu area to wash in, and the piece was meant to draw attention to Venice’s historical and architectural connections to the Arab world as well as centuries-old restrictions on worship.

City officials cited various reasons for the closure, including security risk, breach of health and safety regulations, issues with the installation, and violation of building codes because it lacked special required permissions. From the opening of the installation on May 8 until its closure on May 22, hundreds of people visited to see or worship at the mosque.

Eiríkur Thorláksson, Chairman of the Board of the Icelandic Art Center in Reykjavik, which commissioned the project, responded to the closure in a statement which seeks to correct information published about the installation, including the process of approval undertaken with  Venice City officials prior to its opening, compliance with city zoning and occupation laws, and the  artistic legitimacy of the project. Additionally, in a press release, Thorláksson denounced the closure and criticized the Biennale itself for its lack of support, no longer qualifying as “a venue for truly free artistic expression” despite its “proclaimed advocacy of contemporary art.”

For its part, the Venice Biennale released a statement to artnet News expressing its hope that the installation would be reopened.

More via Curbed and The Guardian.


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