“Vatican” in the City

In the midst of the bustling metropolis, one can be transported to the tranquility of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel and see up close the art frescoes of the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo.

Art frescoes are special high-resolution prints of the original Michelangelo paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City.

Art connoisseurs in Manila may simply visit the Estancia Mall in Pasig City and experience a feast to the senses – stunning Renaissance masterpieces combined with sound and scent to transport the viewer to a lifelike Sistine Chapel experience.

The exhibit – now on its second month – has been attracting art lovers who desire to see the works of the most prominent artists of the Renaissance period.

How did the frescoes arrive in the Philippines?

In 2015, Martin Biallas, founder and chief executive officer of SEE Global Entertainment, was one of many visitors to the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Although his was a very short and strictly regulated visit, he was immensely inspired by what he saw – the lovingly restored frescoes depicting the Creation, biblical prophets and stories, the Last Judgment.

The experience led him to realize that more people should be able to see and enjoy the artworks up close, without having to travel to Europe.  

He then conceptualized the idea of printing the artwork on canvas to produce a traveling exhibit that replicates the Sistine Chapel experience.

To recreate the look and feel of a 16th-century fresco, Biallas found a special fabric from Germany called DecoTex. He made use of this material and produced the prints in the United States.  

He was then able to mount his first exhibit in Canada, enabling an intimate encounter with the recreated Michelangelo frescoes by bringing them to eye level.

Among the exhibit visitors in Vancouver was the Co family, a Filipino family visiting from the Philippines.  They found the exhibit so captivating that they vowed to find a way to bring the art frescoes to Manila.  

This seed of an idea gave birth to the ongoing Sistine Chapel exhibit in Estancia.

The Co family prize art accessibility and art education. Sabrina Co shared: “Viewing Michelangelo’s masterpiece can be incredibly inspiring. It encourages an appreciation for art, history, and creativity, and it might even inspire individuals to explore their own artistic talents.”

A reach-out to Philippine Airlines followed, paving the way for the frescoes’ journey to the Philippines.

“As it is a traveling exhibition, we thought, of course, there is no better company to approach in helping us transport the frescoes to the Philippines and for the enjoyment of Filipinos, other than PAL,” said Arnold Co, Sabrina’s father.

After exhibitions in Vancouver and other North American cities, the frescoes were transported from Memphis to San Francisco to be loaded as special cargo on a Philippine Airlines flight to Manila.

As the flag carrier, PAL did not hesitate to support a venture that gives Filipinos more access to such world-renowned art.

Indeed, PAL flew the 34 life-size frescoes in four special shipping crates for safe transport from San Francisco to Manila on board the cavernous cargo hold of a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Having a big-bellied widebody aircraft was crucial to the success of such a delicate task, and PAL’s trans-Pacific workhorse fit the bill nicely.

At the Estancia exhibit, onsite guests are greeted by friendly staff who walk them through the hall, accompanied by the sounds of a classical music selection curated by Manila Symphony Orchestra conductor Marlon Chan. The scent of incense wraps guests in a fragrant embrace, inviting them to immerse themselves in a feast for the senses and the imagination.  

The old world meets the new with an interactive app that allows viewers to listen to narratives on each piece, enjoying at their own pace. Additionally, an art activity allows families to enjoy unleashing their inner Michelangelo. Works are then publicly showcased at the café.

Guests have a chance to bring home a piece of the Sistine Chapel by purchasing souvenirs inspired by the famous murals.

A portion of the proceeds will go to four designated beneficiaries, namely Philippine Red Cross Blood Program, Call to Rescue, Hapag Movement and the Master Life Foundation.

Manila denizens may view these iconic artworks at the Estancia in Pasig City until the end of September. A special discounted rate is also available for PAL Mabuhay Miles members

Next stop is Cebu City, where these images will continue to enthrall audiences from all walks of life.

As the exhibit wraps up next year, Philippine Airlines will again take up the task of transporting these art pieces out of the country, and on to their next venue overseas.


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