Art

The Sistine Chapel Exhibition at The Croft Is the Closest You're Getting to Rome for a While

Get up close and personal with some of the most famous art in the world.
Get up close and personal with some of the most famous art in the world. Jennifer Goldberg
click to enlarge Get up close and personal with some of the most famous art in the world. - JENNIFER GOLDBERG
Get up close and personal with some of the most famous art in the world.
Jennifer Goldberg


Do you dream of vacationing in Italy? Well, keep dreaming — our friends in the boot are currently barring tourists from the U.S., a state of affairs that isn't likely to change soon.

Still, a small consolation exists.

"Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel Exhibition," a touring show that has been seen around the globe, is on display in two large rooms at The Croft Downtown, an indoor/outdoor events space, through February 14.


The exhibit consists of large fabric panels, organized for the most part just like the real Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome: above your head are scenes from Creation; along the walls are the panels depicting scenes from Genesis, Biblical prophets, and ancestors of Christ.

Mark Biallas, CEO of See Global Entertainment, the company that produced the show, says the inspiration came from a visit to Rome.

"It goes back to an experience I had at the Sistine Chapel," he says. "The lines, the noise, the crowd, you can’t take pictures. [The panels] are up there — people don’t realize how big they are.

"This way, you kind of appreciate even more what this man Michelangelo was able to do. He lived up there literally for almost five years and never left, and had an assistant and literally lived on the scaffolding. I don’t even want to think about the hygiene issues at the time."

Biallas got exclusive permission from Bridgeman Images, the agency that does image licensing for the Vatican, to create life-size reproductions of Sistine works. The images are printed on Decotex fabric, which he says replicates the look of a fresco. The Creation panels are about 9 feet tall and 18 feet wide; most of the prophets are about 12 to 13 feet high. The only piece in the exhibition that is not life-size is The Last Judgment, because The Croft couldn't accommodate its 45-foot height; Biallas says he does have a life-size version he uses when the venue can fit it in.

click to enlarge The Last Judgment includes more than 300 figures and took four years to complete. - JENNIFER GOLDBERG
The Last Judgment includes more than 300 figures and took four years to complete.
Jennifer Goldberg
Visitors enter the hushed space which, between the soft choral music playing, the echoes from the concrete floor, and the presence of church pews, does a decent impression of a sacred space. Of course, there's nothing stopping guests from just walking around and admiring the art, but there is a downloadable app available that gives details on each panel.

In the second room, there are panels depicting scenes from the Old Testament, a small theater with informational videos, and the iconic Creation of Adam panel. (Biallas says he takes that panel from its rightful place on the ceiling down to the floor so people can get a selfie with it.)

click to enlarge Don't forget to get your picture taken with God. - JENNIFER GOLDBERG
Don't forget to get your picture taken with God.
Jennifer Goldberg

Biallas says that while the exhibit is best suited for people age 10 and up, the appeal of the Sistine Chapel crosses all sorts of demographic lines.

"This is like History and Art Lite 101," he says. "We’re not trying to make everybody an expert. This is for everyone. This is for people of all kinds of different faiths. This is for art lovers. This is for history lovers. This is for people to take time out — with all the stress we’ve got going on every day now, you come in here, and it's just a completely different environment."

Croft co-owner Angela Karp says, "This is just wonderful for us to have the exhibit. We need things to be excited about. We need families to be able to go somewhere and do something. We haven’t been able to travel anywhere, but we’ve brought Rome to Phoenix."


"Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel Exhibition" is open through Sunday, February 14, at The Croft Downtown, 22 East Buchanan Street. Hours are Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Masks are required, and there is timed ticketing to reduce crowd size. Cost is $18 per person, with discounts for seniors, military, students, and children. Visit chapelsistine.com for more information.
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Jennifer Goldberg is the culture editor and Best of Phoenix editor for Phoenix New Times.