Edoardo Villa and The Museum...

Edoardo Villa and the Museum at the University of Pretoria

Edoardo Villa's association with the University of Pretoria spans many years. As external examiner in the Department of Fine Arts he has made a valuable contribution to the extension of particularly the sculpture courses. He initiated a bursary fund for sculpture students, which is named after him.

The University bestowed on him the Chancellor's Medal of the University of Pretoria and later a honorary professorship in recognition of his stature as artist.

He confirmed his benevolent association with the University firstly by donating several large steel sculptures which are exhibited on the campus and later by his decision to donate an important part of his creative work to the University. These pieces, 143 in total, have been incorporated into the Edoardo Villa Trust and are on permanent display in the Edoardo Villa Museum. This museum was specially designed and furnished by Uwe GŁnther for this purpose, through the mediation of, in particular, Dr Viktor Hesse and two previous Principals, Profs. Danie Joubert and Flip Smit.

The Edoardo Villa Museum is an important addition to the University's art posessions. Together with the Van Wouw collection it places the University in the enviable position of owning collections of two of South Africa's foremost sculptors.

These collections and the other extensive art collections owned by the University of Pretoria are important resources for research not only by students of the University but also for artists and art historians in general.

The museum was opened on 31 May 1995, on Edoardo Villa's 80th birthday. It is situated on the main campus of the University of Pretoria in the Old Merensky Library. The foundation stone for this historical building was laid in 1937 by General Jan Smuts, then Prime Minister. In 1939 the building, designed by the renowned South African architect Gerard Moerdyk, was inaugurated and in 1991 declared a National Monument, thereby restricting the design possibilities for its conversion into the present museum, which was done by Fritz-Uwe GŁnther. After being used for its intended purpose until the new library was completed, the building housed the Department of Fine Arts and later served as a 24-hour study centre.

As many students link memories to this particular place on the University's campus, it seems especially appropriate that the magnificent volume now also houses the spirit of Edoardo Villa's sculpture. 'These strong, solid and silent works stand in a soaring interior of gleaming wood, marble, and granite. The museum's muted colours of beige, grey and white are a remarkable foil for the sculptures with their tones of dull bronze, their patinas of rust, green and iron black. [ ... ] They suggest self-possession, equilibrium, rest and poise. They fill the museum with an atmosphere almost ancient in its silence and stillness.' (Muffin Stevens, Lantern, Spring 1995.)

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