SALT LAKE CITY — Upon arriving at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition at The Gateway, the visitor is offered a personal audio device that can be used to hear information about each individual fresco. (Those who require increased volume control may request a QR code that downloads the full presentation to Smart phones; it can also be synchronized directly with certain hearing aids). A placard containing some of the information is also located at each panel.
The understated entrance gives the exhibit-goer little idea of what waits just around the corner: a cavernous space filled with larger-than-life individually exhibited high-definition photo reproductions of 34 of Michelangelo’s frescoes. The artwork is so well-reproduced that the cracks of the plaster are easily visible.
Before walking through the exhibit, audiences can sit and watch 20-minute videos about the frescoes. There are three videos, one of which is particularly suited to children; they are shown on a rotating basis. At times, the video soundtrack is loud enough to make it difficult to hear the audio presentations at the panels located nearby.
The exhibit is divided into three main parts. The first set of vertical panels features frescoes depicting the ancestry of Jesus Christ. Much of Michelangelo’s imagery is surprising; he often chooses to represent Jesus’ ancestors in small family tableaus reminiscent of the Holy Family, for example.
A second set, also displayed vertically, illustrates Old Testament prophets. Then there are seven panels hung horizontally from the ceiling to recreate the viewpoint of visitors to the Sistine Chapel. These illustrate several scenes from the Old Testament, beginning with the creation of the world and ending at the story of Noah and the flood.
The majestic and most well-known of the frescoes, “The Creation of Adam,” stands alone in a vertical presentation, enabling the visitor to inspect it up close. “The Creation of Eve” is displayed nearby.
“The Last Judgement,” completed by the artist 25 years after he painted the chapel ceiling, is displayed separately. It contains 390 individual figures and many rich subscenes. Some of the saints depicted in the fresco will be easily recognizable to Catholics who attend the exhibition.
Benches scattered around the exhibition allow viewers to take a seat while studying the frescoes. A background soundtrack of sacred music adds to the experience.
Mark Longe, Utah Catholic Schools superintendent, said he enjoyed the exhibition preview on April 28, comparing it to his visit to the Sistine Chapel with his wife, Tina, 15 years ago.
“We both said at the end that it was really the first time you could see the artwork with any detail,” Longe said. “When you’re actually in the Sistine Chapel, the ceiling is so high that you can’t see the detail.”
The videos about Michelangelo and his work at the exhibit were also interesting, he said.
John and Chris Springman, who also attended the exhibition preview, had a similar reaction. They enjoyed visiting the Sistine Chapel in 2016, but it was crowded, and the time allowed was short. Because the ceiling was more than 60 feet from the ground and brimming with images, it was nearly impossible to see all of its detail and beauty, they said.
“I thought the exhibition was wonderful; it was an opportunity to see up close the things we saw from a distance in person,” John Springman said. “I wish I had seen this first; I would have appreciated the original more if I had known more about it.”
“I thought the exhibition was fantastic,” Chris Springman said. “The art was beautiful and much more detailed than we can ever see in person in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo was a genius.”
Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition was produced by SEE© Global Entertainment. Tickets for the exhibit, which runs through June 21, at The Gateway, 400 West 200 South, SLC, start at $23 per adult, $14 per child. Discounts are available for groups, seniors, military and students. Tickets may be purchased at https://chapelsistine.com/exhibits/salt-lake-city/.