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Exhibit attendees look at Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment on opening day at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Michelangelo exhibit brings the Sistine Chapel to Vancouver

The exhibit opened on Nov. 19 at the Vancouver Convention Centre and is the latest local example of immersive art shows.

By Sarah Williscraft , in City Culture , on November 25, 2021 Tags: , , , , ,

An exhibition showcasing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is now open in Vancouver and organizers and experts say it feeds a growing demand for immersive art experiences. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make it difficult to travel, the exhibition brings the Sistine Chapel to Canada. At the Vancouver Convention Centre, people can take in detailed, to-scale reproductions of Michelangelo’s famous frescoes. 

“Bringing art to people so they don’t have to travel all over the world to experience it is becoming more and more popular,” said Martin Biallas, CEO of Special Entertainment Events, the company behind the exhibit. “We’re also seeing an increase in younger people that are interested in this, which is great.” 

Biallas said his company has put on the Michelangelo exhibition around the world since 2015 but demand for the experience has significantly increased during the pandemic.  

“We were successful before the pandemic,” said Biallas. “But I have to say that, after the pandemic, our numbers almost doubled.” 

The idea for the Michelangelo exhibition came to Biallas after a trip to the Sistine Chapel. He said the experience of waiting in line for hours, getting 15 minutes to take in Michelangelo’s frescoes, and then being ushered out “wasn’t that great.” 

“The exhibit doesn’t replace the original but people who see the exhibit tell us, ‘Oh great, now I had a chance to see what I couldn’t see before,” said Biallas. 

A representative for the company that provides the stock photos for the exhibit said that Bridgeman Images has seen a huge increase in requests from companies looking to put on similar immersive art exhibits. 

“People are so hungry for these types of experiences and to get out from behind their screen to see things larger and up close,” said Tim Davis, sales manager for Bridgeman Images. 

Exhibit attendee takes a photo on opening day of the Sistine Chapel exhibit at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Growing trend of immersive experiences offers new perspective for art lovers

One art historian said she enjoyed the exhibit and the up-close images provided a special experience. 

“I had never seen the images or understood them that way before,” said Catherine Soussloff, who specializes in the Renaissance and the baroque.

She saw the Michelangelo exhibit when it opened in San Francisco in October. 

“Just to be able to see the details, the exact ways that different parts of the compositions related to each other was just astounding. It was really exciting and beautiful.” 

For Sousloff, the current trend of immersive art exhibits, such as Imagine Van Gogh and Imagine Picasso, feels like the beginning of a new form of art consumption. 

“This reminds me of the big blockbuster exhibitions they would have in the ’80s, like a Van Gogh exhibition with 120 paintings and extensive catalogues and you’d have to buy a ticket and stand in line. But, even then, it was difficult to see the painting in so much detail up close.”