The finger of God reaches out to a reclining Adam in Rome’s Sistine Chapel, a painting by Michelangelo that people travel thousands of miles to see.
With coronavirus travel restrictions, that finger has been out of reach. But beginning Friday, you can see it up close at the Mall of America.
The mall is bringing “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition,” an immersive presentation of Michelangelo’s frescoes, including “The Creation of Adam” and “The Last Judgement.”
The show will occupy a nearly 10,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the mall’s north atrium.
“Think of it this way: Rome is coming to Minneapolis,” said Martin Biallas, CEO of Los Angeles-based SEE Global Entertainment, which works with Hollywood studios, sports franchises and more to create traveling exhibitions.
Biallas was inspired by a trip to the real Sistine Chapel, where he had to wait in a long line and then squint to see Michelangelo’s frescos while packed in (pre-COVID) with 2,000 other people. Guards everywhere made sure he didn’t take any photos, either.
“You had 15 to 20 minutes to look up 60 to 70 feet to see the frescoes,” said Biallas. “You couldn’t really see them that well. They were as small as a stamp.”
In 2014, Biallas got the Vatican’s permission to recreate the paintings in life-size reproductions so people can see them up close. No one will have to crane their neck to see the huge 27-by-14-feet depiction of David holding Goliath’s head, preparing to slice it off with a sword.
Michelangelo painted on fresco, a wet plaster that dries and absorbs the paint; these life-size reproductions, based on highly detailed photographs of the original works, were custom-painted in Berlin on Decotex, which mimics the look and feel of fresco.
Unlike at the real Sistine Chapel, visitors can take as many photos as they wish while listening to an audio tour giving information about each fresco. A two-hour soundtrack of choral music, including Mozart, plays while visitors roam the space.
Jill Renslow, a senior vice president for the MOA, said the exhibit will offer families a safe, fun experience that provides ample room for social distancing.
Only 85 people at a time will be allowed in the show, which opens Friday and continues through January. Tickets are on sale for $14-$19 via chapelsistine.com.
Minnesota isn’t the only place that Rome is visiting. Another version of the show is on view in St. Louis, and next week a third unit opens in Phoenix. Since premiering in Montreal in 2015, the exhibit has visited cities around the world, including Shanghai, New York, Vienna and Bogota.