Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Exhibition to showcase Michelangelo’s masterpieces in the Sistine Chapel

The traveling exhibit “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition” features reproductions of 34 of the frescoes. It will be on display in Albuquerque beginning on June 10. (Courtesy of SEE Global Entertainment)

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Michelangelo created his masterpieces on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City.

It is the cornerstone work of high Renaissance art and only seen in person – until now.

Beginning on June 10, “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition” will be on display at Expo New Mexico through Aug. 7. Tickets for the traveling exhibit go on sale on Tuesday, May 10, at chapelsistine.com.

A piece from “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition.” (Courtesy SEE Global Entertainment)

The traveling exhibition showcases high resolution photographs of Michelangelo’s masterpieces for audiences to see up close.

“It was about 10 years ago (CEO) Martin Biallas was at the Sistine Chapel,” said Sylvia Noland, SEE Global Entertainment business development director. “He waited two hours in line and he got inside and his camera was taken away from him. The frescoes are so beautiful he wanted to create an experience that everyone could see. Martin got a license for the images and put them on fabric and the show began to tour the world.”

Michelangelo used the surface to showcase his entire talent as a painter. His heavily-populated compositions recount events from the Old and New Testaments, from the story of creation to the “Last Judgment.”

Michelangelo was, however, loath to accept this task, as he saw himself more as a sculptor than a painter, and had come to Rome in 1505 to sculpt a mausoleum for Pope Julius II. But in 1508 he agreed to paint the Sistine Chapel. Julius II originally wanted the theme to be the Twelve Apostles.

Michelangelo however found this proposal “poor” and instead decided on a complex ceiling fresco composed of numerous different scenes. The paintings and their sequence have intrigued people to this day.

Michelangelo painted the story of creation across nine panels on the shallow barrel vault. Such a cycle typically begins with the creation of the Earth and humanity and ends with the fall of man and banishment from Paradise, but Michelangelo includes scenes from the life of Noah.

Additional biblical scenes, representations of prophets and the sibyls of antiquity also make their appearance. A painted architecture frames the images and lends a clear structure to the dynamic ensemble.

On Nov. 1, 1512, after 4½ years work, the ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel were solemnly inaugurated. Michelangelo achieved this accomplishment largely without assistance and under difficult conditions.

A piece from “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition.” (Courtesy of SEE Global Entertainment)

Around 20 years later, in 1536, he returned to Rome. Pope Clement VII wanted a redesign of the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo then worked until 1541 creating “The Last Judgment” with Jesus in the center as the great judge separating humanity into the chosen and the damned.

The photographic exhibition has traveled to Shanghai, Chicago, Phoenix, Berlin and Vienna, to name a few stops.

Noland said while immersive experiences are the rage right now, “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition” is different.

“The photos are displayed as static pieces so visitors can spend time viewing each piece,” she said. “Because the photos are very high in resolution, you can see the cracks in the frescoes. You can also see the brush strokes. It’s an exhibit you want to take your time with.”

Noland is responsible for finding the perfect spaces for the traveling exhibit. There’s also one criteria that has to be met.

“I have to find a space that can accommodate at least 10,000 square feet to put the 34 images,” she said.

Visitors at “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition” look at reproductions of Michelangelo’s work. (Courtesy of SEE Global Entertainment)

When visitors attend, they will be able to use their iPhone or Android phone to get more information about the people who are depicted in the paintings. There will also be an audio guide for those who don’t have a smartphone or need the assistance.

The visit will take around 60 to 90 minutes when accompanied by audio guides available for purchase, or 30 to 50 minutes without an audio guide.

“It’s wonderful to learn why Michelangelo and Pope Julius II chose the people that are represented,” Noland said. “It’s a great opportunity for visitors to see because you’re not allowed to take photos while visiting the Sistine Chapel.”

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