Jewish organizer paired with Vatican curator to create new exhibition

One of the highlights of the ‘Vatican Splendors’ exhibition is a display on the painting of the Sistine Chapel.


The new exhibition, “Vatican Splendors: A Journey Through Art and Faith,” now at the Missouri History Museum through Sept. 12, is a fascinating look at the papacy’s influence on history and culture for more than 2,000 years. 

Yet it’s also fascinating to learn how Mark Greenberg, who is Jewish and is president of Evergreen Exhibitions, which is responsible for circulating the display of 170 rare works of art and historically significant objects, has collaborated since 2003 with Monsignor Robert Zagnoli, curator of the Vatican Museums, to create the exhibit-as well as three other previously touring attractions.

Advertisement: The Grande at Chesterfield

What is your personal and educational background?

I grew up in Newton, Mass., outside of Boston, and my family belonged to a conservative congregation there. I graduated from Wesleyan University in 1984 with a degree in economics, and got my M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1988.

Now I live in San Antonio with my wife, Nicole (nee Silverstein), and my kids, Eli, 7, and Ava, 4, but going on 14.

How did you get involved in producing museum exhibitions?

I’ve always loved working for companies with tangible products. I began my professional life at Time Inc., working first as an assistant business manager for Sports Illustrated and then creating marketing packages for advertisers at some of the lifestyle titles like Southern Living, Parenting and Cooking Light.

In 1992, I joined Walt Disney Co. as a marketing director of CD-ROMs like the “Lion King Activity Center” and “Disney Magic Artist,” a drawing and painting program. After three years, I went back to the magazine world as general manager of Miller Publishing Group LLC’s sports group, which included titles like Sailing World, Tennis and Cruising World.

In 2000, I went to work for BBH Exhibits, Inc., a private company in San Antonio that services museums with touring exhibits. It merged with Clear Channel Exhibitions in 2001. In 2005, Clear Channel split and spun off various divisions, such as Monster Trucks, Broadway shows, and LiveNation, which does music promotions. I bought the exhibition business, Evergreen, from them and am now its president and principal shareholder.

What kinds of exhibitions have you been involved with at Evergreen?

We mainly oversee exhibits that explore science, art and history. For example, we’ve done a space exhibit in concert with NASA and an “Inside Africa” exhibit in conjunction with the Field Museum in Chicago, both of which have been displayed at the St. Louis Science Center. We have a “Robot Zoo” exhibit in Turkey right now, which will be going to Haifa in June. We’ve done a “World Inside Your Head” exhibit that focuses on the brain, and an “Art and Culture” exhibit with Cheech Marin and George Lopez. And we’ve got a “Leonardo DiVinci’s Machines” exhibit now touring in Nebraska, then going on to Bozeman, Montana and Mexico City.

And, of course, we have “Vatican Splendors,” which is debuting on St. Louis before going on tour to two other North American cities (still to be disclosed) before returning to Rome in 2011, since the items are not allowed to be absent from the Vatican for more than a year.

Tell me how your collaboration with the Vatican began.

Evergreen has been working with Monsignor Zagnoli since 2003; this is the fourth touring exhibit of rare objects we have produced together.

The first one, “St. Peter and the Vatican Legacy of the Popes,” was seen in Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Cincinnati and San Diego. The second one, pegged to the election of Pope Benedict, toured in 2005 to Montreal, Milwaukee and San Antonio. And in 2008 we collaborated on “Vatican Splendors: 500 Years of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Swiss Guard and the Vatican Museums,” which went to St. Paul, Cleveland and St. Petersburg, Fla.

Did you have any background in Christian theology or art?

Well, I did spend my junior year in college at the London School of Economics, so I became familiar with many of the Renaissance masters through museum tours there. And, of course, most Renaissance art centers around depictions of the New Testament. But I had no background whatsoever in Catholicism, and I had never met a priest before this experience. It’s been an amazing educational journey for me.

How did the Monsignor and Evergreen Exhibitions mount the museum display?

Monsignor Zagnoli is incredibly knowledgeable about the Vatican collection, both from an historical and artistic perspective. He teaches communication at the Papal University of Santa Croce in Rome, and it is his philosophy that not only does faith inspire art, but that art inspires faith. His vision is to showcase beauty and artistic genius, from its earliest forms to modern day.

He came up with a list of objects available to us that fit his vision-objects that are on loan from a variety of places, such as the Vatican Library, the Papal Swiss Guard, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, the Apostolic Floreria, and more. Then our team of designers and writers determined how to display them-everything from the order in which they are seen to how to ship them, label them, install them and light them. Brother Charles Hilken, professor and chair of the department of history at St. Mary’s College of California, prepared the audiotape. And, of course, we have people who market the exhibit as well.

What are your favorite items in “Vatican Splendors”?

That’s like asking me to name my favorite child!

This exhibit really has something for everyone. For Catholics, surely one of the most significant objects is the gold and silver Reliquary of Saints Peter, Paul, Anne, Joseph and Others, believed to contain holy bone fragments, which has never been shown before outside the Vatican.

But this is intended to be an inspiring, not an evangelical, exhibition. There are so many objects of historical significance in the display-from the earliest, like the candle votives found near St. Peter’s tomb, dating to 160 A.D., and the terracotta brick from St. Paul’s tomb, dating to the second century-to the 2002 bronze cast of Pope John Paul II’s hand by Cecco Ponanotte-the only object visitors are invited to touch!

In between are amazing works of art, from one of Michelangelo’s bas-relief sculptures to the Portrait of Christ With Crown of Thorns (The Veronica of Guercino), by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino. And then there are some spectacular secular objects, like the iron calipers Michelangelo used to design the dome of St. Peters and the first known geographic map of Australia, made by missionaries.

As a Jew, I find it interesting to study the traditions of other faiths, just as I hope people are interested in learning about mine. It’s amazing to me to see, through this exhibit, how the papacy has influenced-and been influenced by-the world throughout the centuries.

‘Vatican Splendors: A Journey through Faith and Art’

WHERE: Missouri History Museum at Lindell and DeBaliviere in Forest Park

WHEN: Through September 12. Hours for “Vatican Splendors” are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

HOW MUCH: $19.50 for adults, $17 for seniors and $13 for children 6-12, and can be purchased online at and at all Ticketmaster outlets, including select Schnucks stores.

MORE INFO: To charge tickets by phone, call 1-800-745-3000 or 1-877-2VATICAN. Tickets may also be purchased at the Missouri History Museum box office. Special group discounts for 15 or more are available by calling 1-800-916-8212 or sending an e-mail to [email protected]. A series of free special events will take place in conjunction with the exhibition, including a “Faith in Film” movie series, lectures, choirs, string music performances and more. Check