'Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel' exhibit tours to Oak Brook

Art, faith and commerce all combine in “Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition,” which opens Wednesday at Oakbrook Center.

Shoppers who may have previously visited the Sears in the Oak Brook shopping mall can now instead marvel at reproductions of 33 Biblical story frescos created during the height of the Italian Renaissance.

“You can't substitute the originals,” said SEE Attractions CEO Martin Biallas. “But it's an additional, beautiful way to see and learn about these masterpieces. We hear from visitors all the time who say that if you see both, you get the full picture.”

Biallas came up with the idea of touring the reproductions after a less-than-ideal tour of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. Biallas remembers long lines and guards policing the noisy crowds from taking photographs. And because the ceiling vault frescos were 60 feet away, Biallas said they all looked like postcards.

“People don't realize how big they are,” said Biallas, who emphasized that all the recreated fresco images are to scale save for “The Last Judgement.” That altar image was reduced because the former Sears is not tall enough to host a scale reproduction of the original.

Biallas said patrons are allowed to take photos of the exhibit. Guest can also rent an audio guide that explains each fresco.

“Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel” exhibition in Oak Brook is one of four concurrent global tours. It originally launched in 2015 at a Montreal convention center, and has since toured to sites — holy and secular — ranging from St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna to the Mall of America in Minneapolis.

Biallas also emphasized that SEE had the exclusive licensing rights via Bridgeman Images to the highest-possible resolution images of the post-restoration Sistine Chapel frescos. Biallas joked that if SEE had negotiated directly with the Vatican, they might still be writing letters seeking permission.

Rather than using digitally projected images and animation as seen in the “Immersive Van Gogh” attraction currently in Chicago, Biallas said “Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel” is more traditional with static images recreated on material meant to mimic dried plaster.

Biallas was pleased to point out that many of the timed entries for “Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel” have already sold out. He speculated that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with overseas travel so restricted, these touring exhibits with built-in social distancing have grown in popularity.

“You have to imagine that you're on the scaffolding during the restorations,” Biallas said about the exhibit. “You're coming that close, and that's a perspective that no pope has ever had.”

"Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition" opens Wednesday and will be on display at Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook through Sunday, Aug. 15. Courtesy of SEE Attractions/See Global Entertainment

“Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition”

Where: Oakbrook Center, 1 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook

When: May 19 to Aug. 15; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $20 and up; <a href=""></a>

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