Michelangelo — A Different View

If you are even remotely a fan of art history, or simply just an art appreciator, there’s still time to stop at the Capital Center to check out the Michelangelo: A Different View exhibition, which runs through August 23rd.

Ever since I saw that this was coming to Albany, I was excited. Had it pre-saved on Facebook for months. I have an art history minor, and if minors had concentrations well you could have said that I concentrated most on Michelangelo Buonarotti. Even more specifically, his fresco work in the Sistine Chapel. Now going to this exhibition is not nearly the same as stopping to see it in the Holy See itself. So your breath may not be stolen from your lungs (like it did for me when I first laid eyes upon the Sistine Chapel), but I don’t think that means you won’t be able to appreciate the sublime gift that Michelangelo had. And this is where the exhibition does him right.

If you’re in the Sistine Chapel, there are announcements in all languages telling you not to take photos (there’s a long story involving the artwork being copyrighted to a Japanese company who paid for the enormous and extensive restoration in the early 90s, though it’s not nearly as simple as that anymore), or to keep quiet and be respectful. But in the exhibition, there is more respect. It was quiet as you moved throughout the piece, phone to your ear (if you’re like me and didn’t realize it was going to require headphones…so bring headphones!) to listen to a gentle man’s voice detailing Michelangelo’s thought process of each biblical scene with each panel. The information in the audio guide would have been incredibly useful during my independent study on The Last Judgement (aka the Altar Wall). 

It’s not just the quiet that’s enjoyable, you can stand there and study each of the pieces and panes individually for as much time as you need. You’re not being hustled out or bumped into by hundreds of other tourists trying to see the same things you are. You can take your time and enjoy all of the little details and expressions he has painted into the hundreds of bodies that occupy the mostly true-to-life size canvases. You can see the panels and pendentives and colors and shadows up close that you definitely can’t see up close in person or even notice in the Vatican. For example, I always loved Michelangelo’s rendering of the Delphic Sybil but seeing her expression and the way her hands curved, or the exquisite anatomy of the telamones on either side. Insert chef’s kiss here. Or you can get a chuckle at the depiction of the “whale” in Jonah’s panel.

There’s much to appreciate at this exhibit, including frescoes of other Renaissance artists who contributed to the chapel’s incredible visual history. So run, don’t walk, to buy your tickets for the final days of this exhibition. They must be purchased online. Give yourself about two hours to stop in and see the work of one of the greatest artists to have ever lived, and marvel at his gifts like I did. It may not be a spiritual moment, but it’ll get you close. 

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