Iceland’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale is now open, following a word-of-mouth agreement from the Italian city’s authorities that it was alright to do so.
The exhibition is a replica of a mosque and was considered a potential target for terrorists by the police, but Prof. Guðmundur Oddur Magnússon told RÚV from Venice that there is nothing but peace in the area and no visible threat.
The mosque is inside a disused 10th century church and, crucially, is not actually a mosque, though it certainly appears to be so. It is in fact a replica of a mosque: an artwork called The Mosque, by Christoph Büchel.
City authorities originally refused to give the work a license to proceed, because it is next to a canal, which makes surveillance and security difficult in the face of the possible threat from extremists. It was not clear on Thursday if the pavilion could open as planned, but Venice authorities gave a word-of-mouth green light on Friday and formal licensing is expected.
Guests at the opening described the mosque as peaceful and beautiful. The opening was attended by about 30 Icelanders and 300 locals and artists.
All guests must take their shoes off, as in a real mosque, and after prayers people are encouraged to sit on the carpet and chat.