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Venice looks set to welcome Museum of Islamic Art

By Lucia Guarano | Al Arabiya | 01 Mar 2014

Venice looks set to welcome a new Museum of Islamic Art in the heart of the tourist getaway. The plan is in its decisive stage following a top Italian Government delegation visit to the UAE and Qatar in February during which the initiative was discussed as part of long-term investment in Italy.

Promising to take strides in bridging the cultural divide, the idea was born two years ago, following a vists by the mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, to the Louvre’s new Islamic Art gallery in Paris.

“Indeed a Gallery that fascinates not only for the outstanding collection on display, but also for the architectural structure that houses it,” the mayor said.

The chosen location for the planned museum is Palazzo della Pescheria, an area known for its buzzing tourist activity.

“The building that used to host Venice’s courthouse is now immediately available and would serve perfectly for its centralposition and its visibility, especially to foreign visitors,” explained Orsoni, who has been one of the main supporters of the initiative.

The contents of the museum are yet to be revealed, and questions over whether the collection will be donated and bought are yet to be answered. However, the scale of the Islamic-themed collection will certainly be novel for Venice.

According to Cristina Tonghini, an Islamic art researcher at the Cà Foscari University of Venice, the Museum will have an impact on Arab – Western relations. “In terms of synergies at an International level there are no limits. Venice could become part of the network of Islamic Art museums such as Paris or London and, of course, Doha set to become the true driving force of this ambitious project with its iconic MIA (Museum of Islamic art). An Islamic Art Museum in Venice could reopen a forgotten page and represent a chance to recuperate in a cultural key what has been an important exchange between the East and the West in the past,” she explained.

Former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta supported the initiative during his recent visit to the UAE and Qatar.

“I believe it is an incredible opportunity not to waste in a bid to lay the grounds for a stronger dialogue, both cultural and economic,” said Orsoni. As he pointed out “An exchange that we all feel the need of with Venice, of course, legitimately aiming to play a leading role in this challenge.”