Italian Masterpiece

  • Experiential
  • Motion
  • Live Action

Six days to re-create the Sistine Chapel inside the roof of a FIAT. Live at the LA Auto Show.

DirectionEditorialLive Action
Agency Partner

The Brief

On the heels of the classic FIAT 500's re-launch in the U.S., the brand returned with a larger version of their classic "Cinquecento". To show off the spaciousness of this new larger model, FIAT and Miami-based SapientNitro challenged Wildlife to recreate an Italian Masterpiece inside of their new Italian Masterpiece.

In other words: recreating a portion of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Inside the roof of a FIAT 500L. And we had six days to do it, live at the Los Angeles Auto Show.


Having built past experiences for a variety of North American auto shows, including LA, our team jumped in with strong knowledge of the lay of the land. The execution here seemed obvious enough: slice the roof off of a 500L, suspend it upright at the LA Convention Center and allow the great spectacle to unfold with a talented artist wielding their brush.

Of course, FIAT pointed out that this wouldn't show off the spaciousness of the vehicle itself. Our artist had to be inside the car, and they had only six days at the show available to complete this recreation of one of the world's greatest and most renowned works of art. Michelangelo? He needed 4 years.

Artist Selection

Now the question remained: who was talented (and daring) enough to execute this painting under such challenging conditions. It would be hard enough with unlimited time, on a normal canvas. Thus began our exhaustive search to identify the perfect artist for the job.

Eventually, we met Nicola Verlato. Born in Italy, Nicola spent every summer from ages nine to fourteen training at the studio of a monk-painter in the monastery of his nearby village. Here, he learned to paint in the classical style. Now, more than three decades later, he lives and works in downtown Los Angeles, a short walk from the LA Convention Center and the Auto Show.

Not only are his own works unique, striking, and inspired by the likes of Michelangelo, but Nicola is charismatic, fearless in achieving his artistic goals, and adaptable to a range of techniques -- new and old -- ranging from 3D planning in Maya, to classic academic sketching, and even clay sculpture, each of which factored into his approach to the Italian Masterpiece Project.

Before The Show

We wanted to build awareness and buzz before we ever set foot in the convention center, creating an appetite for this experience. Our crew took Nicola out to Detroit where we could supervise and document the unique preparation process for the vehicle.

We ripped the seats out of the car, creating a custom flat platform on which our flexible, 180-degree chair could rest, while installing a special fiberglass "ceiling" coated to absorb Nicola's paint.

In the process, we also sat down with FIAT's marketing team, and even the car's interior designer, in order to finalize the materials and trim for this one-of-a-kind 500L.

Auto Show Floor

A few weeks later, we were off and running before thousands of auto show visitors. We rigged the vehicle with an assortment of remote controlled cameras, GoPros, and even had Nicola's perspective captured via Google Glass recordings.

We fed live stream to screens on the showroom floor, giving car buyers a closer look at his work, and shot daily interviews and behind-the-scenes footage to maximize content from the event. In fact, we developed a rapid post-workflow with an on-site editor at the show, delivering daily videos to FIAT's social team so that those not at the show could follow the progress from home.

Tasked with ensuring the artwork came together in its best possible form, we brought in a sports maseuse to keep Nicola performing his best throughout the event, while doing our best to recreate the comforts of his studio within the confines of the 500L.


FIAT didn't have a massive 40' LED display, or the fancy violin-led model premiere of other brands in the exhibit hall, yet they stole the show with this display. Not only did car buyers discover that the new 500L was a big car, but collectors wanted to own this one in particular and press embraced the spectacle. The Italian Masterpiece Project was the lead photo for LA Times' coverage of the auto show, and danced its way from Creativity Online to USA Today. There was so much positive coverage, in fact, that it made its way all the way across the Atlantic Ocean where the Vatican caught wind of the piece.

Unfortunately, they didn't think this FIAT 500L was quite as cool as we did. They sent a cease and desist letter to ChryslerFIAT, claiming photographic rights over the Sistine Chapel's frescoes. While the concept had, naturally, gone through prior legal approvals and received lawyers' blessings, the Pope would not bestow the same honors upon it. Naturally, FIAT wasn't eager to further stoke this fire, and plans for a national tour of the vehicle were tabled. However, bucket lists were checked, and one fine case study was born.

Now, we're just left to wonder why Pope Francis' visit to the U.S., in which he toured around in a FIAT, wasn't in our perfectly suited 500L.

  • 45M
    Earned Impressions
  • 1
    Cease & Desist Order