The stigmata

The project


Monograph 1970


Preview Showings



Final preparations in Palermo

(dma) - As soon as I returned from the Tyrol to Sicily I found out I was to be transferred to RAI's regional television headquarters in Palermo. It seemed as if some mysterious hand was gradually guiding me to the right places to find the decisive contacts for the Rediscovery project. In Palermo it was to prove far easier to have direct contact with the cultural institutions involved in the project, to oversee the printing of the catalogue and brochures and the production of the special packaging needed for the travelling exhibition.

The Rediscovery Catalogue

The front and back covers and the endpapers of the Christian Hess Catalogue published for the Travelling Exhibition of the Rediscovery by the Cassa di Risparmio per le Province Siciliane.
(Stass Stampatori tipo-litografi associati. Palermo - November 1974)

Among the project's most fervent supporters in Palermo was Friederick A. Schultz, director of the Goethe Institute, who was the first to give back the name of Christian Hess to German culture when he presented my monograph to the organisation's annual conference. So pursuasive was his intervention that every Goethe Institute along the proposed route of the travelling exhibition gave its support to the initiative.
Ferdinando Stagno d’Alcontres, chairman of one of Sicily's leading banks, was of invaluable help in the production of the catalogue, of which Leonardo Sciascia wrote the preface noting certain affinities between Hess and Guttuso. The regional councillor responsible for tourism, Pasquale Macaluso, and the chairman of the Palermo and Monreale Tourist Board, Paolo Bevilacqua, granted us use of the exhibition rooms at the Palazzo del Turismo. Nor can I forget the enthusiastic participation of the head of Sicily's Regional Assembly, Aldo Scimè; of Enrico Vinci, the director-general of the European Parliament and of Albino Longhi, the director of RAI's regional headquarters in Sicily.


The emblem of the Exhibition

The painting "The Fortune-teller" in which Hess featured several typically Sicilian themes was used to illustrate the invitation cards for the Rediscovery Exhibition in Palermo on 26 November 1974 - 30 years to the day after the artist's death.
The same painting was then used to publicise all 12 stages of the travelling exhibition in cities in Italy, Austria and Germany.

I would also like to recall the affectionate cooperation of Renzo Collura, the director of the Municipal Museum of Modern Art in Palermo, who personally oversaw the setting up of the Rediscovery exhibition. He was assisted by the painter Michele Spadaro who brought along and put on display the easel that had belonged to Hess and which he had kept in his Patti Marina studio since Emma had given it to him to look after in the early 1950s.
There were 60 works on show - paintings, water-colours and drawings - at the exhibition in Palermo. Most of these had been left by Hess with his sister Emma; others had been loaned by Italian collectors. In that November of 1974 my concentration had reached its peak. I had completed the layout and printing of the catalogue, but it was already time to think of the packaging to be arranged for the travelling exhibition. Six specially designed crates had to be built to measure for the works they were to contain. Each crate would have photographs of their contents on the inside of the opening. The idea was to make the packing and unpacking of the works as easy and as swift as possible at each stage of the exhibition.

Preparations for the Travelling Exhibition

Click to see

It was also necessary to prepare a handbook indicating the itinerary, how the works were to be displayed at each location, plus all the details for insurance purposes and the transporters. Here, too, my experience in the planning and making of documentary films came in useful and I produced two copies of a 16-page handbook using a publicity binder (22.05x25.05cms) produced by a well-known Italian mineral water company. You can look through the handbook by clicking here on the side.
The travelling exhibition was a huge success with the public. After Palermo I personally attended the shows in Rome, Genoa, Florence and Bolzano. I was accompanied on these stages by my brother-in-law who then carried on alone as I was obliged to go to Rome to set up the opening of news broadcasting on RAI's third radio channel. The exhibition was greeted with extensive and favourable coverage in the press and in cultural circles as well as on specialist arts programmes on television and radio in Italy, Germany and Austria. Thanks to the kind cooperation of the RAI film archives, it is possible to see many of the tv reports on this website. All those who can still today admire Hess' work owe a debt of gratitude to the artist's sister Emma who saved the paintings from possible destruction in the war and continued to offer them a safe home for many years afterwards in the hope that they would one day be restored to the light of day following their long and bitter dispersion.

Hess at the Palermo Rotary Club

Palermo 14 November 1974 – During a gala dinner at “Villa Igiea”, the chairman of Palermo Central Rotary Club, Prof. Giuseppe Barbagallo-Sangiorgi, announces the Rediscovery of the works by the German painter Christian Hess thanks to the efforts of club member Domenico Maria Ardizzone and Aldo Scimè, segretary- general of the Sicilian Regional Assembly and Roberto Ciuni, editor-in-chief of "Il Giornale di Sicilia".

I can still recall the day when she told me I had in effect become her brother's trustee and biographer - and entrusted me with all the documents, letters, photographs, and press cuttings containing reviews of exhibitions that were to form the basis of the historical archive which is now looked after by the Christian Hess Cultural Association.

Without Emma's vivid memories and her ardent desire to perpetuate her brother's memory I doubt it would have been possible for anyone to reconstruct the human and artistic journey of Christian Hess.