New exhibition brings Sistine Chapel frescoes to Auckland
by Mina Kerr-Lazenby
Jan 02 2022


The Genesis (which includes The Creation of Man) is the exhibition’s main feature.

In pre-Covid times, some 25,000 people would pour through the Sistine Chapel a day.

It’s a testament to the works that lie within – the Vatican chapel is famous for its frescoes crafted by Renaissance painter Michelangelo.

Now those in New Zealand can experience the works, thanks to a new exhibition opening at Aotea Centre in Auckland.

The exhibition will display photo-mechanically reproduced copies of 50 of Michelangelo’s most applauded creations, under licence from Vatican Museums, close to their original size - including the world-renowned ‘The Genesis’ (which includes The Creation of Man).


There are 50 photo-mechanically reproduced copies of Michelangelo’s most applauded creations.

Stewart Macpherson, spokesman for promoter The Stetson Group, said his breath was blown away when he saw the exhibition for the first time.

“I think it's fabulous. To be able to see it up close like that, and see his brushstrokes and his work in such detail, is just truly remarkable,” he said.

What makes the exhibition so unique is that it gives the guest the artist’s view.

Unless you take binoculars to the Vatican, viewing the frescoes in detail can prove difficult: the ceiling sits around 18 metres high and chapel visitors often have to crane their necks just to get a glimpse.

At the Aotea Centre’s exhibition all the reproductions are placed on the walls just metres away from the viewer, bar ‘The Genesis’, which is spread out on the floor. A podium allows guests to experience the art from above, hence the exhibit’s name: Michelangelo – A Different View.

Macpherson praised the exhibition for not only offering a different, more detailed view of the works, but for making the artworks in general more accessible and approachable.

“We’ve priced it and created it in a way so that families can go, and children can enjoy it and be educated by it,” he said.

“You don't need to be an art-appreciation-type person in order to enjoy this. No matter how large your interest in art, there is an opportunity to really explore that here. Newcomers will find it interesting, and those who are familiar with the works will see them with a whole new depth.”

Audio guides ensure those visiting can learn the finer details of the Florentine master’s interpretation of the biblical creation story.


Frescoes are placed upon the walls just metres away from the viewer.

Those looking to go deeper can harness the efforts of Christopher Longhurst, the exhibition’s guide and a former Vatican City tour conductor, who has studied the works in minute detail and finds details that most miss.

“The average religious person misses certain things within the paintings. The scientists miss the religion and the religious people miss the science. And both miss the art,” he said.

Longhurst said there were multiple interpretations.

“Works like this have so many levels of meaning, multiple, multiple meanings, and they're all valid.”

He said the art being taken out of its original context – a commanding Italian museum – is what makes the exhibit so special, as there is no expectation and less intimidation. It also gives viewers more opportunity to focus on the works as simply works of art, rather than “religious propaganda”.


Each piece comes with a specially curated audio segment, which describes the painting in detail.

“The neat thing about these works of art is that, as artworks, they are attractive to the eye – and that’s all they have to be, there is no pressure to view them any differently.”

With that in mind Macpherson said he expected people would come away from the exhibition feeling “exhilarated”.

“This is a really, truly unique experience. What people are seeing is so special, and it has never been in the Southern Hemisphere ever. So this is a really, truly unique experience.”

Michelangelo – A Different View is running at Auckland’s Aotea Centre from January 3-30, 2022