Enjoy Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel up close in Salt Lake City exhibition

Photo: SEE Entertainment

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 3, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — For those art lovers who won’t necessarily make it to Vatican City this year, the Sistine Chapel is now coming to you.

Gephardt Daily spoke with Sylvia Noland, from SEE Entertainment, the family of companies that has brought the attraction “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, the Exhibition” to Salt Lake City.

The exhibit is at the Gateway, at 16 N. Rio Grande St., under Flanker Kitchen and Sporting Club, and goes through June 19. The attraction is currently showing in 10 cities around the world; five in the U.S. and five internationally, and about every two months it goes to a new set of five cities.

This unique exhibition, which spans more than 10,000 feet, invites you to step into the universe of the greatest masterpieces of Michelangelo. It is staged by the organizers of themed shows such as Star Trek, King Tut, Titanic, Frida Kahlo, Michael Jackson and more. Guests will be allotted a time slot and should allow 60-90 minutes to pass through the exhibit.

The attraction showcases the awe and wonder of arguably one of mankind’s greatest artistic achievements, while allowing its visitors to experience this art from an up-close, life-size, and never-before-seen perspective. The ceiling paintings from the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City have been reproduced using licensed high-definition photos. Brought to life using a special printing technique that emulates the look and feel of the original paintings, visitors are given a chance to engage with the artwork in ways that were never before possible: seeing every detail, every brushstroke, and every color of the artist’s 34 frescoes.

Photo: SEE Entertainment

Noland, who spoke with us from Redondo Beach, California, is responsible for finding the locations the exhibits visit. She told us more about the genesis of the show.

“About 10 years ago, our CEO, Martin Biallas, he was at the Vatican, at the Sistine Chapel, and if you’ve been there, all of us experienced the same thing, you wait in a line for about two hours, you get inside, you’re only allowed in for 15 or 20 minutes and you absolutely cannot take any photographs or they’ll take your camera away from you. Well, he came out, and it was beautiful, and stunning, as we all experience, but he said, you know, I wanted to know more, and I wish I could have been in there longer.

“So he said; I’m in the exhibit business, I’m going to see about licensing these images, placing them on canvas, so people can see this artwork up close. ‘Cos when you’re there, you look up 60 feet, and when I was there, I wanted to know, who are the people up there? Who are those people and why were they so important that they got to be on the ceiling? So what he did, it took him about five years, and we’ve been touring this for about five.

“He did it, he put it on a special canvas. It’s a process called Decotex, and what it does is it makes the fresco — fresco meaning that Michelangelo, over 500 years ago, when he was up there, he painted directly onto plaster, so that’s what a fresco is. So when you see these up close, you’ll see the cracks in the plaster, and the brush strokes, and you can’t do that at the Vatican because it’s 60 feet in the air.

“So we also have an audio guide that comes with your ticket, and if you were to listen to the entire audio guide track, it’s about an hour and a half. People kind of pick and choose, and usually the experience people have is about an hour, but what’s so great about it, is it tells you, it’s a handheld device, or you can use your iPhone, or your Android, you go up and point it at the fresco and it tells you exactly who that person was and what they did in history and their significance and why Michelangelo and the Pope selected them.”

She added: “Then we also have a theater. It’s about a 20-minute thing, but what we’ve done, we have a comedian and an animated Michelangelo character, and they banter back and forth in a fun way, so even kids like it, because you get laughing because Michelangelo, he’s funny. And so you get these 15, 20 minutes of facts and the whole story behind it in a fun way.”

Noland said that Michelangelo himself appears somewhere in the last fresco. “There’s over 400 characters in the Last Judgment, and Michelangelo is in there, so you’ll have to see if you can find him, kind of like a Finding Waldo,” she said.

She added that this show is a little different from the Van Gogh exhibits that have visited Salt Lake, in that the images do not move around visitors, and the setup is more like a museum.

“This is your traditional (exhibit), like a museum. You’re going in and you’re going to study each piece up close,” she said.

Noland said individuals who come through are encouraged to take as many photos and selfies as they would like.

She said the way the exhibition is laid on in Salt Lake City is her favorite design of all the locations.

“There’s five reveal points,” she said. “Normally when you go into an exhibit of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, you go into a room like a convention center. You go in and there it is, you see everything at once. The way we had to design this, in this space in the Gateway, there’s five reveal points, so you go round a corner and it’s like, oh wow, then you turn and you see the prophets, then you see the ancestors of Christ, then you see the Genesis. I mean, each time you turn a corner there’s a different reveal point. So I told our designer I wish we could do this in every city.”

She added that as well as the Sistine Chapel exhibit, SEE Entertainment has other exhibitions coming up that may make a stop in Salt Lake City.

“We have Monet by the Water, so that is like Van Gogh — things are moving around, but we’re taking a step above. Van Gogh is in a four-wall situation, and ours is in a tent, so we have bridges, and running water’s coming down, spheres that you can walk through. It’s very four dimensional, so it’s really cool; we launched that in July.

“We also have another one that I’m very excited about — it’s Louvre Fantastique. If you’ve been to Paris to the Louvre it would take you five days to see the famous of the famous, right? And there are hundreds of these. But we’ve picked the top 80, and we’ve licensed these images… it’s very augmented reality and a lot of immersive type things… it’s very exciting, so people get to become part of the art. So that launches in July as well.”

Noland said there also is an exhibit coming up named “Art of Banksy: Without Limits,” featuring legendary street artist Banksy.

“Each of our exhibits for Banksy is totally different — each one has different pieces of art,” she said.

Also launching in Canada in July is The Museum of Failure, featuring products that have bombed. “The whole premise behind it is from failure comes success,” she said. “So it’s also teaching children, it’s OK to fail.”

Also on the table is an Alexander McQueen exhibit that will feature 100 of his outfits.

Local COVID precautions are in place for the exhibit, and the timed-ticketing model means that only 100 people at a time are in a space that is more than 10,000 square feet.

The exhibition is open Wednesdays through Sundays, with first entry at 10 a.m. and last entry at 6 p.m. For more information go to chapelsistine.com.

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