Once in a Lifetime: ‘Sacred Gifts’

"Sermon on the Mount" is one of the four oratory paintings that will be replaced with four others in February. (Photo courtesy of BYU's Museum of Art.)
“Sermon on the Mount” is one of the four oratory paintings that will be replaced with four others in February. (Photo courtesy of BYU’s Museum of Art)

The “Sacred Gifts” exhibit at BYU’s Museum of Art will swap four oratory paintings for four other familiar oratory paintings at the end of February.

Viewed by tens of thousands of patrons, “Sacred Gifts” features 11 religious art pieces of Carl Bloch. Bloch’s paintings are treasured and recognizable by members of the LDS Church. Many of his works decorate the halls of church buildings throughout the world.

The Museum of Art is privileged to briefly house Bloch’s works of art as well as the works of two other artists, Heinrich Hoffman and Frans Schwartz, until May 2014.

The Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark was reluctant to part with Bloch’s oratory paintings, which currently include the famous “Sermon on the Mount,” “Healing the Blind Man” and the lesser-known “Let the Little Children Come Unto Me” and “The Shepherds and the Angel.” The Frederiksborg Castle will only lend four pieces at a time. These paintings have never been out of the castle before and will not be loaned again, said the leadership of the castle.

In late February, the four current paintings from the castle will be replaced by four others, depicting the week of Christ’s life, in time for the upcoming Easter season.

More than 100,000 tickets have already been distributed to patrons since the exhibit opened in November 2013. Many have seen the iconic paintings multiple times since, like Paul Bluth, a biology major.

“I actually first came a few weeks ago when my mom brought the whole family. I think I will definitely come again,” Bluth said.

Shaylea Anderson, also a biology major, mentioned the spirituality and realness the paintings brought.

“I love the emotion the paintings have,” Anderson said. “I feel like the look Christ has on his face is almost … real.”

Bringing the penetrating gaze of Christ to Provo was no walk in the park. Dawn Pheysey, curator of religious art, has been part of the negotiating effort for the last 12 years.

“After we purchased Bloch’s Healing at the Pool of Bethesda,’ the donor who paid for it suggested that it would be wonderful to have a Carl Bloch exhibit. That is when things started rolling,” Pheysey said. 

Pheysey then spearheaded the efforts to convince churches and museums in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and New York to loan the paintings in exchange for paying the cost of conservation. It usually costs anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 to conserve a single painting, there are more than 20 paintings displayed in the “Sacred Gifts” exhibit.

“It is worth it to know that art changes peoples’ lives,” Pheysey said. “The arts, whether it be art, music, theatre or dance can touch our lives in ways that reading a book can’t.”

Due to the overwhelming popularity and constant traffic of the exhibit, museum and student passerbys may think they may never get a chance to see the cherished art.

“The ‘best kept secret’ about the exhibition is that the daytime is almost always available,” said Hilarie Ashton, marketing and public relations manager of the museum.

“Sacred Gifts” also provides iPads and headphones that can be rented to enhance the experience. Because of the demand of the iPads onsite, the interactive app is now available for download on iTunes.

Tickets can be reserved in advance online at sacredgifts.byu.edu/tickets.

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