Art Star Michelangelo Shines in NYC

Art Star Michelangelo Shines in NYC

For those who have had the good fortune to visit the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City and experience in person Michelangelo’s awe-inspiring frescoes, the temporary exhibition, “Up Close: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel,” is a welcome reminder of one of art’s greatest achievements. For those who have yet to make the pilgrimage, the exhibition may be the goad to book a Roman holiday subito. But if the Eternal City is not on your summer itinerary, the next best thing is no farther than Lower Manhattan.

Displayed in the vast main plaza of architect Santiago Calatrava’s soaring, winged Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center, June 23-July 23, are 34 nearly life-size photographic reproductions of some of the world’s most famous works of art, including “The Creation of Adam” and “The Last Judgment.” As anyone who has seen the originals in the Vatican knows, the experience can be rushed, crowded and over before you know it. The frescoes are far away, on the ceiling and on the back wall above the altar. You have no choice but to look up. But not at The Oculus.

Here, art lovers stand face to face, eyeball to eyeball with the images: stepping back to take in a panel’s entirety, charging in to examine a detail. Nor are there any Vatican guards to hurry you along. Your visit is self-timed.

While an audio guide accompanies the exhibition (I’ve not used it), I wish everyone could have the cicerone I had at the exhibition’s preview, Dr. Lynn Catterson. Art historian and researcher, Dr. Catterson is the liveliest of companions. Erudite, humorous and down-to-earth, she knows her stuff and how to communicate it.

Initially, I thought the exhibit would be cheesy. Call me what I am, an art snob. What could these reproductions reveal that the originals could not, I reasoned? Plenty, it turns out. Calatrava’s cathedral-like Oculus is the perfect environment for this most biblical of art encounters.

“Up Close: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel,” The Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center, 186 Greenwich St., June 23-July 23, 10 am-9 pm daily. Tickets start at $15.


“Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” (©Erich Lessing)

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