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Swiss Artist Plans a Mosque Installation for Venice Biennale
by Randy Kennedy
The Swiss artist Christoph Büchel, who has become known for politically provocative pieces that address war, immigration and poverty, announced on Thursday that he plans to temporarily turn a former Venetian Catholic church into a functioning mosque – or at least an art installation that calls itself a mosque – as part of the Venice Biennale, which begins next week.
"The Mosque: The First Mosque in the Historic City of Venice," as the project is titled, will serve as the official pavilion for Iceland, where Mr. Büchel has lived for many years. The mosque installation, created in collaboration with several groups of Islamic Venetians as well as Islamic leaders in Iceland, is intended to highlight the fact that, unlike most prominent cities in Italy, Venice – whose architecture and art have been shaped over centuries by Islamic commerce and culture – has never had a mosque in its historic heart. (The nearest large Islamic cultural center, where hundreds of Muslims go weekly for prayer, is on the mainland, in Marghera; the greater Venice area, with a population of 270,000, is believed to have a Muslim population of between 15,000 and 20,000 residents.)
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