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Museums & Collections - Edoardo Villa Collection 

Edoardo Villa (1915-2011) 

Edoardo Villa was born in Bergamo, Italy, in 1915 where he studied the basic techniques of sculpture under Minotti at the Scuola D’Arte Andrea Fontoni. He worked in Milan and Rome until he was conscripted into the Italian Army. He was wounded and captured in North Africa during World War II, and was interned in Zonderwater as a prisoner-of-war near Pretoria. When released in 1947, he decided to remain and work in South Africa.

Villa donated several large steel sculptures that are exhibited on the campus of the University of Pretoria, and later also donated an important part of his creative works to the University. These pieces, 143 in total, are on permanent display in the Edoardo Villa Museum. His work reveals his European background as well as a strong African influence.

The Museum, which was opened in 1995, is housed in the Old Merensky Library on the University of Pretoria main campus. The building, which was designed by Gerard Moerdyk and is now a national monument, was inaugurated in 1939.

The History of the Edoardo Villa Museum

Edoardo Villa became an external examiner at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Visual Arts. In this position he made a valuable contribution to the curriculum of the Sculpting Department. In 1983 he created a bursary for sculpting students and the first donation of works by him was made in 1985 during the inauguration of the Fine Arts Building. At the same time Villa lent two of his large sculptures to the University, which were later purchased by the institution. At the beginning of 1991 Villa was awarded the Chancellor’s medal for his contribution to the art of sculpting. He was also appointed honorary professor in the Department of Fine Arts and Art History.

The Museum itself had its beginning during 1994\95 when Villa donated 140 small and 10 large works to the University. Professor Nico Roos of the Department of Fine Arts, Professor Flip Smit, Vice Chancellor and Principal, and Dr Andre Breedt, Director of the Bureau for Culture on campus co-signed the donation agreement with Villa and his wife Claire. The Museum itself was established in the Old Merensky Library on the main campus. Villa himself, Dr Breedt and Mr Uwe Gunter of the Department of Facilities and Services did the main planning, and Mr Gunter became the Museum’s first curator. The official opening   took place on 31 May 1995, on Edoardo Villa’s 80th birthday.

During the time of the Museum’s existence many exhibitions and concerts have been held here. The most noteworthy of these were the 2001 Large Steel Sculpture exhibition and the 2004 ’Villa Behind the Mask’ exhibition. Both these exhibitions brought new works to the Museum and through the years it has also received many donations. These included the walls that were donated by the Lupini family as well as a bust of Professor Kirby. During the first 14 years 51 items were added to the collection, which increased the original number of works from 143 to 177.

The Edoardo Villa Museum presently houses the largest single collection of works by this artist and presents a broad overview of his work between 1943 and 2004.