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Museums beyond walls

When walking across the Hatfield Campus at the University of Pretoria (UP), one does not only pass beautiful historic buildings with noteworthy architectural features, but also a diversity of contemporary sculptures and other works of art. These public sculptures and artworks often go unnoticed, yet they form an integral part of the University’s campus heritage. The more than 40 sculptures are accessible to the general public, students and staff, and form a living extension of the collections curated and managed by the UP Museums.

University of Pretoria sculpture museum
Sculpture by Anton Smit PHOTO courtesy the University of Pretoria

Officially opened in 1995, the Edoardo Villa Museum is situated in the Old Merensky Library building on the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield campus. The museum exhibits a broad range of sculptural objects by the Italian-South African artist Edoardo Villa (1915 – 2011), works by Anton van Wouw (1862 – 1945) as well as sculptures by a few other South African artists. Villa came to South Africa as a prisoner of war during World War II. He spent several years in a Prisoner of War camp in Cullinan, east of Pretoria. Upon his release after the end of the war, Villa chose to stay and live in South Africa as a full-time artist. While some of Villa’s works reveal the influences of his European background, he was also strongly influenced by African sculptural traditions and, together with Cecil Skotnes and Sydney Kumalo, was a member of the Amadlozi group, which sought to popularise traditional African sculpture. The museum also includes many smaller sculptures in maquettes that Villa designed while planning larger public artworks. On the lawn in front of the museum building are Villa’s large cement works. One is also able to appreciate his distinctive steel sculptures exhibited publicly across the University of Pretoria campuses.
     The western, eastern and central wings of the museum house some of the finest sculptural works comprising more than 208 classic and modern sculptures on public display. The oldest sculpture is titled Bird catcher by Anton Van Wouw, dated 1881. Many of the new additions to the museum gallery share a particular enriched narrative and reflection in relation to sculpture within a South African context. Such narratives are evident in other acquired works such as the art of Collen Maswenganyi (1977), Lwandiso Njara (1987) and Jan van der Merwe (1958). This open public display and ever-expanding collection is considered one of the largest permanent sculptural collections at any university in South Africa.

University of Pretoria sculpture museum
Sculpture by Guy du Toit PHOTO courtesy the University of Pretoria

     Beyond the museum walls, dispersed across the main campus, as well as on other campuses, is a public sculpture collection consisting of more than 41 works that serve as memorable landmarks of the University of Pretoria. These include sculptures by Mike Edwards, Guy du Toit, Mary Steinbank, Fanie Eloff, Thijs Nel, Ike Nkoana, Andre Otto, Noria Mabasa, Rhona Stern, Lucky Sibiya, Anton Smit, Coert Steynberg, Angus Taylor, Isaac Seoka, Berco Wilsenach, Dorte Berner, Elly Holm, Danie de Jager and many other notable South African artists. The museum aims to promote the cultural, artistic, and aesthetic vitality of sculpture within the University of Pretoria and the wider Capital City. This diverse sculptural collection celebrates the creativity of the artists who created them in the form of abstract expressionism, realism, and constructivism. The museum offers guided tours to visitors and scholars for exploration, research, and knowledge to evoke the culture of art appreciation, art understanding, and to foster an ongoing dialogue between art and diverse communities.

Admission: Free of charge
Hours: Open Monday to Friday 08:00 –16:00.
Closed: Weekends, Public Holidays and December
Contact: 012 420 2178 / 012 420 6419
Tours: or Tel: 012 420 5155

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