Venice officials shut down mosque-inside-church art exhibit

MILAN (AP) — Venice officials have ordered the closure of a working mosque in an ex-church, set up as Iceland’s exhibit for the 56th Venice Biennale contemporary art fair.

The Icelandic pavilion was closed Friday after Venice city officials withdrew authorization for the installation citing violations of the initial agreement, including using the pavilion as a place of worship. The Venice Biennale said in a statement that it hoped a solution could be found so the pavilion could reopen.

Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Buechl’s exhibit created the first mosque ever in the historic center of Venice, which for centuries served as a crossroads between East and West and is infused with Middle Eastern architectural influences. The project envisioned a working mosque for the seven months of the Biennale, which opened May 8.