Thursday, July 13, 2017


I've been to Rome many times but never had the patience to subject myself to the torture of going to the Vatican to see Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
It always seemed a little like going to the Statute of Liberty, a tourist attraction better observed from afar or one a free trip on the Staten Island ferry. Who wants to walk up 354 steps who's only reward is to say you stood in the Lady's crown;
who wants to say you wasted a day standing in line for a fifteen-minute chance at a terrific kink in your neck from looking up at a fresco you almost need a pair of binoculars to see.
Better to experience Michelangelo's art straight on and close up without having to strain your neck and risk a daylong headache. Under the magnificent ribs of Santiago Calatrava's Oculus at the World Trade Center a more accessible version of the Sistine Chapel is now on exhibit titled,
"Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel Up Close".
A series of photographic close-ups of segments of the ceiling have been wrenched from the massive piece and attached as digital prints to freestanding plinths so we can view them at eye level without the strain to the body and a case of vertigo.
Each segment is accompanied by a narrative explaining the gist of the story being told in that vignette on Michelangelo's ceiling. There's no need to do a "Where's Waldo" search for the Creation of Adam or
"The Separation of Light and Darkness" or
"The Prophet Joel", although you'd need a better religious scholar than me to figure out a need to try to find him anyway
By far my favorite piece was Michelangelo's depiction of the "Creation of the Sun, Moon and Earth". I don't know where Michelangelo's head was with his relationship to the Catholic religion. I don't know if he respected the church or saw it as a cash cow but if he wasn't blowing a little wind toward the papistry with those bare buttocks farting out either the sun or the moon or more likely earth I'd be pretty surprised.
The largest piece in the exhibit is Michelangelo's "The Last Judgment" towering over the other plinths at the far end of the hall.
The piece done by Michelangelo decades after the ceiling was completed works to anchor the exhibit to the building. As with its topic of ascension or descent the pieces rises to a height that makes the exhibit feel a part of the space in a way it wouldn't have had everything remained at the same subdued level of the plinths.
The only part of the exhibit that elicited my sense of "Huh?" was the entry fee.
The exhibit sits smack dab in the center of the Oculus corralled by a series of stations and wire rope.
It was pretty easy to walk the perimeter of exhibit to clearly see all of the exhibit without having to plunk down the $20 entry fee. It's true you'd miss out on the self-guided audio tour but the write-ups are written in a point size visible from across the room without a pair of readers.
I guess I should feel a little guilty but I don't. I do recommend taking a broken subway ride or an under air-conditioned cab down to the pristine Oculus for a little trip out of this summer's oppressive heat and either pay your twenty bucks or skirt Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel show from the outside looking in.
Use your iPhone and take a few pics. It's a good way to beat the heat and commune a little with a master.

Io Non Ho Mani Che Mi Accarezzino Il Volto
Mario Giacomeli, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery

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