Relic of Hilton Head art gallery travels Europe, spotted in Switzerland

bheffernan@islandpacket.comMarch 22, 2013 

When Christine Hohage saw the front page of the newspaper, she had to call over her husband Fred to have a look.

"You won't believe what I'm seeing," she said.

The part-time Hilton Head Island residents were vacationing in Vira, Switzerland, a lakeside village in the Italian-speaking part of the country this past September.

It was then, on the banks of Lake Maggiore, the couple gazed up at a nearly 15-foot-tall, aluminum sculpture of a man sitting on a stool, reading a massive, metallic issue of The Island Packet -- from March 16, 2001, to be exact. The lead stories that day were Beaufort County's census boom and the resignation of the local NAACP chapter president.

"It was a total surprise, of course," Christine said Thursday. "If he had a Wall Street Journal in his hand, I wouldn't have been as surprised, ... but seeing the local paper that we have seen for such a long time was just shocking."

"Thousands of people must have seen it," Fred added.

The sculpture was part of a 17-piece outdoor art exhibition the couple came to see, not realizing its connection to their home.

The author of the exhibit works was prominent Swiss sculptor Kurt Laurenz Metzler.

Metzler, 72, was commissioned to build the sculpture in 2001 for the opening of the Marcel Scheiner Gallery on New Orleans Road. It was one of the largest sculptures Metzler had ever made, he said this weekend in an interview via Skype.

Metzler, who divides his time living in Siena, Italy, and Zurich, Switzerland, said he came to Hilton Head for the gallery opening and remembers the island fondly.

"I had a wonderful time. I played a lot of golf," he said.

A 28-page book, published by the Marcel Scheiner Gallery, preserves Metzler's sculpture and painting exhibition, though the gallery closed after about two years.

"It's too bad that he couldn't hold it," Metzler said of Marcel Scheiner's gallery.

Afterwards, the nearly 1.5-ton aluminum sculpture followed Scheiner back to Europe, where it has also been exhibited in Milan, Italy, and Zurich. It soon will be shown in Germany, Metzler said.

Although 4,644 miles away, Christine Hohage said the area where she and her husband saw the sculpture reminded her of Hilton Head, with its palm trees and abundant flowers.

The newspaper was just evidence that home is never too far away.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.

Related content:

Letter: Support local art galleries, July 8, 2003

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