AURORA | The last time a papal visitor made a stop in Aurora, Slick Willy was in the White House, UB40 was at the top of the pop charts, and Editor Dave Perry boasted a mane with an immaculately coiffed party in the back.
Perry’s still here, albeit with a much more buttoned-up hairdo, but that’s about all that remains from World Youth Day 1993, when Pope John Paul II made a sojourn to Cherry Creek State Park.
Now, more than a quarter century later, a Vatican visitor is once again passing through this humble burg, this time with 34 reproductions of biblical tales.
The Hangar at Stanley is hosting, “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition” from July 4 through Aug. 13, during which time visitors can pass through dozens of nearly life-size reproductions of the master’s famous frescoes, including “The Creation of Adam” and “The Last Judgment.”
The man behind the exhibit, Martin Biallas, said he got the idea for the project about five years ago during a particularly chaotic trip to the real Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. He said the rushed and touristy nature of the experience, and the sheer size of the structure, left him wanting more time with the art.
“(The images) are 60 feet up so they all look like stamps,” he said during a soft opening of the new exhibit in Aurora July 2.
Eric Leong, associate producer at Biallas’ firm Special Entertainment Events, said the exhibit is a means of magnifying the art for particularly curious patrons, and shortening the distance between Aurora and Rome.
“We’re giving people the opportunity to see this art who may not have the money or time to go to Rome, or if they’ve been there, they can see it again from a different perspective,” he said.
Leong said most people spend about 60 minutes in the exhibit — which comes with a 90-minute-long guided audio tour — but some people have spent more than three hours taking in each fold in the umpteen buxom bodies splashed on the specialized fabric panels.
Since launching in 2015, the Sistine Chapel exhibit has been displayed in myriad venues in nearly two dozen cities across the globe, including a cathedral in Vienna, an armory in Tacoma, Washington and historical living quarters of Franciscan friars in Panama.
The panels currently displayed in Aurora were shipped from Bogotá, Colombia two weeks ago, according to Leong.
Bryant Palmer, spokesman for Stanley Marketplace, said the exhibit marks the second time the bazaar on Dallas Street has used its massive former airplane hangar to house a long-term production.
“It’s a little bit of an experiment,” Palmer said of the exhibit taking over the hangar, which usually hosts weddings and banquets.
He said Stanley is planning on hosting some two dozens special events at the exhibit in the coming month, including an opera performance, an Italian-themed disco, yoga classes and a swing dance.
The space will also have a bar serving themed drinks like aperol spritz and negroni throughout the exhibit’s six-week run.
Leong said he believes the new exhibit at Stanley is apropos for art aficionados and novices alike.
“We never say we’re better than the actual Sistine Chapel,” he said. “But it’s kind of like watching a move in I-Max vs. on your TV; you could have a great time with both because there will be different emotional connections there.”
IF YOU GO
Doors are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, July 4 through Aug. 13. Hours will be extended for various special events throughout the exhibit run. The Hangar at Stanley is at 2501 Dallas St. Tickets are $16 for general admission. Visit stanleymarketplace.com for more information.