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  • Writer's pictureJoe Capozzi

Forget Italy. You can see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel at the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach.

Visitor admires the Sistine Chapel in Rome (CREDIT: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP VIA GETTY)

IT TOOK MICHELANGELO five years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Italy.

It will take the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach just 3½ days to create a stirring replica.

Sort of.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition, an immersive re-creation of one of mankind’s greatest works of art, is coming to the historic art center at 811 Park Place from March 11 to April 24.

Sure, the master himself, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, did all the painstaking work more than 500 years ago.

But modern technology will help convert the art center’s main building just south of downtown into a replica Sistine Chapel exploding with 5,000 square feet of color.

Charlotte, N.C. (Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition)

The 34 frescoes Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the chapel between 1508 and 1512 are reproduced through high-resolution photographs on 16-foot canvas panels.

A special printing technique emulates the look and feel of the originals, painted in Michelangelo’s signature style of wet paint on the freshly plastered walls and ceilings of the Apostolic Palace in Rome.

It’s one thing to see those originals in the actual Sistine Chapel, where most of the frescoes decorate the ceiling nearly 70 feet above mobs of neck-craning tourists.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition

It’s quite another experience to see detailed replicas up close at eye level in a cutting-edge interpretation, surrounded by immersive photographs while soothing Gregorian chants are piped through an audio system.

“I’ve been to the Sistine Chapel. You look at it and it's 60 to 70 feet in the air and it's quite impressive, but when you can get within three or four feet of it, ‘Wow!’ It’s right there,’’ said Dr. Tom Pearson, chief executive officer of the Armory Art Center.

“You can almost touch it. You can see the brush strokes, you can see the fresco, you can see the cracks, you can see everything. It’s just a cool experience.’’

Since its debut in Montreal in 2015, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Experience has been shown all over the world — from Shanghai, Berlin and Vienna to Chicago, Phoenix and New York.

Pearson saw it for the first time in San Antonio a few months ago on a field trip to help determine if the Armory Art Center could handle the exhibit. A technician with Special Entertainment Events also visited the Armory to take measurements.

The verdict: The Armory, at the edge of Flamingo Park, is able to house the two-dimensional replica Sistine Chapel masterpiece.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition

When a SEE semi truck pulls up to the Armory in early March, it will take about 3½ days to unload crates and install the exhibit in the center’s main art deco building (originally a Palm Beach County National Guard Armory) and its three exhibit spaces: Montgomery Hall, Greenfield Hall and the east gallery.

When visitors first enter the exhibit in Montgomery Hall, they will see “The Creation of Adam,” the artist’s famous fresco of God’s finger touching the finger of Adam. The roughly one-hour tour ends in the east gallery with “The Last Judgment,” which was added by the master in 1535.

The replica frescoes are displayed in their original size except for “The Last Judgment,’’ which is smaller than its original 45-by-40–foot display in the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition

“It is set out in a story form that you walk through and there will be listening devices in English and Spanish,’’ Pearson said.

The art center plans to launch an advertising campaign in mid-January. But the buzz is so loud that more than 6,000 tickets have already been sold through the exhibit’s national marketing team.

The Armory Art Center, 811 Park Place in West Palm Beach, will host Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Experience in March.

Plans to bring the exhibit to Miami next fall were pulled after analytics showed that many of 6,000 ticket sales for the West Palm Beach show were coming from the Miami market, Pearson said.

“This will be the biggest event at the Armory in many, many years,’’ Pearson said.

The exhibit will be open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during its 6½ week run.

Tickets can be purchased online now for specific times. They range from $19.20 for a basic entry to $26.90 for a VIP ticket that includes fast-track access, along with discounts for children and seniors.

For more information and links to tickets, go to the armory website.

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