In 2010 at the Park Avenue Armory, iconoclastic auteur and art historian Peter Greenaway used cutting-edge digital technology to explore, in great detail, Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and Paolo Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana.” Now Westfield is offering a decidedly more analog examination of Michelangelo’s frescoes that adorn the interior of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, including the barrel-vault ceiling, one of the most famous, and most seen, works in history, dating from 1508 to 1512 and 1535 to 1541. Michelangelo might have needed special scaffolding to get up there, and visitors must climb nearly five hundred steps to reach the top of the dome, but creative designers Susan Holland & Company and construction firm Atomic have brought it all down to earth in Santiago Calatrava’s white-winged Oculus, placing nearly three dozen large-scale photographs of sections of Michelangelo’s masterpiece on freestanding blocks, accompanied by brief text and an audio tour. Standing above it all in the back is a giant reproduction of Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment,” which was commissioned by Pope Paul III. (All works are near original size.)
As the name of the show promises, people can get up close to the photos to gain insight about the work. Among the sections on display are “God Separates Water from the Heavens,” “The Fall of Man and Expulsion from Paradise,” “The Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Earth,” “The Great Flood,” “Haman’s Punishment,” and “The Creation of Adam,” in which God reaches his finger out to the first man. As visitors walk through the space, they will come upon classic Italian Renaissance portrayals of such biblical figures as David and Goliath, Noah, the five Sibyls, Judith and Holofernes, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zachariah, Jonah, and Daniel, and such ancestors of Christ as Jesse, Zerubbabel, and Uzziah. “The painting depicts God from below and by choosing to do so, Michelangelo violated all image conventions at the time,” the text notes about “The Separation of Light and Darkness.” Although you can see much of the exhibition by walking outside the roped-off area on the main floor of the Oculus, admission to the central part is twenty dollars, which includes access to the audio tour as well. The exhibition runs daily from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm through July 23, after which it will travel to New Jersey, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, and Annapolis.