‘Hell, Heaven and Hope: A Journey through life and the afterlife with Dante’ Review

By Melissa Nyambayo

In Palace Green library from 2nd December 2016 until 16th March 2018, this exhibition on Dante’s work considers how the Divine Comedy can still inspire a modern audience. The exhibition has a range of pieces from the internationally-renowned collection of Mr Livo Ambrogio. This includes prints by Salvador Dali and even a portrait of David Bowie posing with a statue of Dante. For the literary lovers, the exhibition includes works inspired by Dante from Jorge Luis Borges as well as T.S. Eliot.

Additionally, a film is projected created by Davide Bianchi from the University of Bologna. This film showcases the historical centre of the city of Florence and the 34 plaques throughout the city, each one bearing a passage from the Divine Comedy. The film is mesmerising as it follows the plaques in a spiral trajectory, travelling from the outskirts of the city to its very centre.   

What is particularly striking about the exhibition is the way it showcases how Dante’s Divine Comedy has been reproduced and adapted across the years. This includes the film ‘Inferno’, inspired by the book by Dan Brown starring Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones, a Dante comic book and in true Italian style, a Dante olive oil. The works of Dante may only be studied within classrooms but what this exhibition demonstrates is how relevant Dante’s 700-year-old text is today and how it continues to resonate with so many artists, authors, and filmmakers.  

The most fun and interactive part of the exhibition is the wall with three maps where visitors can place people in Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Some of those people already assigned to Hell were Harvey Weinstein and ‘my PE teacher’.  An interesting addition to Purgatory was ‘slow walkers in Durham city centre’ and in Heaven was ‘my Mum’.  This exhibition is truly intriguing and eye-opening as its diverse range of exhibits means it has something for everyone and is definitely worth a visit.  

The exhibition runs 2 December 2017 – 18 March 2018 in the Palace Green Library. Find more information here

Photograph: Melissa Nyambayo

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