The Contemporary Art Gallery holds over 4,000 works of art of painting and sculpture with the prevalent subject "Jesus the Divine Worker" ranging from the end of the 1930s to the present day. Among the artists there are - to name just a few - Carlo Carrà, Giorgio de Chirico, Pericle Fazzini, Ferruccio Ferrazzi, Emilio Greco, Francesco Messina, Domenico Purificato, Fausto Pirandello, Georges Rouault and Mario Tozzi.
Although the collection of works dates back to the early 1940s, the Gallery, located inside the “Osservatorio” building, was officially inaugurated in 1961 in the presence of Valerio Mariani, then president of the Contemporary figurative arts section” of the “Superior Council for Antiquity” of the fine arts.
The original exhibition criterion envisaged the arrangement of the largest number of works without any distinction between the paintings and sculptures depicting the divine worker Jesus and those with a Christological subject, placed next to each other to offer a multi-voiced narration of the life of the Messiah.
A fast-paced narration that began with the Nativity of Tozzi and the Holy Family of Ceracchini, continues with the Flight into Egypt of Carrà and then develops into many chapters including The Good Shepherd of Greco, Jesus who calms the storm of Dottori, and finally conclude with the intense and heartbreaking pathos of Congdon's crucifixions.
From 1963 to 1966 the collection of works expanded thanks to the organization of personal exhibitions of Christian art and the consequent generosity of the participants.
In 1963, on the occasion of the XXI Course of Studies, a room in the Gallery was named after baron Francesco Mario Oddasso, industrialist, general manager of CISA Viscosa, patron and first financier of the "Jesus divine worker" project.
In the two-year period between1964-1965, the Gallery opened to the outside by organising travelling exhibitions in various cities of Italy, supported by debates, publications, musical evenings and conferences, which were included in the scope of the Popular Missions. In this regard, Don Giovanni often recalled that “Osservatorio Cristiano does not want to be a museum, but a means of apostolate to bring the masterpieces of modern art that it has collected outside the Cittadella, in the certainty that through its exhibitions it will be more widely evangelised Our Lord Jesus Christ”.
In 1967, despite the extreme attempt implemented with the publication of the competition notice “Christ in the Civilisation of Machines”, the Art Gallery interrupted the systematic acquisition of works. The main causes of this choice are to be found in the drastic reduction in private funding, which occurred above all after the death of the industrialist Francesco Mario Oddasso, and in the saturation of the exhibition spaces. An attempt was made to remedy this last problem by placing some paintings and sculptures in the rooms, corridors, the small church, offices, gardens, terraces, porticoes and warehouses of the “Cittadella”, which had been completed in 1963 with the design by Giovanni Astengo.
The setting up of exhibitions and the entry of new works into the Gallery was sporadic in the thirty years between 1967 and 1997, the year in which the buildings of the “Cittadella” suffered serious damage from the earthquake. Consequently, the Gallery, like other structures declared unfit for use, was closed to undergo a radical and lengthy consolidation operation, after which it was reopened to the public with a new and more rational layout. The original layout of the “Pinacoteca” of the “Osservatorio Cristiano” in Assisi, inaugurated on 30 April 1961, aimed above all at documenting the characteristic iconographic aspects of the collection, exhibiting as many works as possible. On the contrary, the museographic rearrangement project by the architect Gian Piero Siemek, supported with funding from CEI and publicly presented in July 2002, structured a new linear path which, through a rigorous selection of the works, restores the most enjoyable features of the collection by enhancing the message that is still present and vital today.
Thanks to much detailed work of inventory and scientific cataloguing, not only are the 100 works on display accounted for, but also the works of painting, sculpture and applied arts conserved in the warehouses and other spaces of the Citadel: from the chapel to the gardens, offices, to the theatre and the buildings of the “Cittadella Ospitalità”.