Venice Biennale

Venice court rejects fast-track request to re-open Biennale 'mosque' by Christoph Büchel

Icelandic Pavilion commissioner says the legal process will take too long

A court in Venice has refused to fast-track a legal claim filed by the Icelandic Art Center (IAC) seeking the reopening of artist Christoph Büchel’s mosque, which launched earlier this year in a disused church in Venice as part of the Biennale.

The IAC is the commissioner of the controversial project, which was housed in the former Catholic church of Santa Maria della Misericordia in the Cannaregio neighbourhood. The mosque closed at the end of May after only two weeks when city officials claimed that it breached health and safety regulations.

The Padua-based lawyer Marco Ferrero lodged the claim with the supervisory court for the Veneto Region on behalf of the Icelandic Art Center in early July. The IAC asked for €360,000 in compensation from the city of Venice for the closure of the mosque, as well as an unspecified sum for “damages”.

On 29 July, Ferrero requested that the case be fast-tracked; the court subsequently rejected this on 31 July. “Because the standard procedure for an appeal can take many months….it is clear that the court will not rule until after the Biennale (until 22 November),” the IAC says in a statement.

“Continuing our appeal would therefore only address the matter of possible compensation for damages due in relation to the shutting down of the pavilion and would not be useful in helping us achieve our primary goal: re-opening the mosque project for the remainder of the Biennale,” the statement adds.

The IAC says it will “seek possible alternative ways” to keep the mosque project accessible though it is unclear what this approach will be. Officials at Venice city council could not be reached for comment.