Have you ever wanted to visit the Sistine Chapel and see Michelangelo’s painted ceiling, but not yet had the opportunity to visit the Vatican? Wouldn’t it be great if, somehow, an authentic recreation of said painting could be conveniently brought to your area? For art enthusiasts and would-be travelers in New Jersey, a new art exhibit titled Up Close: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is now open at the Westfield Garden State Plaza, but only for a limited time.

Up Close is best described as a limited-run, traveling art exhibit that features “34 museum-quality, near life-size reproductions of Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel frescoes.” Its appearance at the Garden State Plaza — from now through October 15 — is the only stop planned in New Jersey. In addition to displaying high quality recreations of each fresco — “fresco” describes the method of painting used, popularized during the Roman era and used during the Italian Renaissance — other themed events are offered during the exhibit.

The spacious exhibit allows visitors to freely roam around and inspect each fresco in the order of their choosing. Upon entry, visitors are also given a headset and audio device. Each fresco has an “Audio Guide” number, and inputting the associated number unlocks a detailed audio description of the painting, directing listeners to specific sections while outlining their significance and historical context. These audio diaries can run in length from a minute or two to much longer, depending on the fresco. All of them are deeply informative and, in many cases, vastly improve the overall art experience. Especially if you’re an art novice, like I am. I found both the descriptions written alongside the paintings and the audio diaries to be deeply engaging.

Up Close: Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel

In addition to the art exhibit itself, UP CLOSE offers three experiential events. The first, “Italian Lessons,” is a group event where an experienced, fluent instructor from Berlitz conducts a 30-minute class. The event is offered twice nightly, at 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and runs until October 9. Participants also receive a common phrases handout and VIP entry to the exhibit. This ticketed event costs $40.

“Paint Night” is the second experiential event. As the name would imply, participants join an instructor-led paint class hosted by the experts at PaintBrush Studio. The two-hour event takes place on Sundays from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm, now through October 8. Tickets are $50, and include paint materials and VIP entry to the exhibit.

The final experiential event offered during the UP CLOSE exhibit is called “Taste of Italy.” It is described as “a culinary tour of Italy” that includes meats, cheeses and other light Italian snacks, each paired with Italian wine. The “Taste of Italy” event takes place nightly from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm until October 12.

Up Close: Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel

For those who’ve never visited the actual Sistine Chapel, UP CLOSE is probably the next best thing. In fact, with the in-depth audio diaries and large, ground-level frescoes that let you examine the paintings right in front of you (instead of on the ceiling), it might be even better. For more information about UP CLOSE: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, or to purchase tickets, click here.


  • Hero (Top) Feature Image (& Additional Images): © Vinny Parisi / Best of NJ
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