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02 March 2018

Upcoming international exhibition

Luigi Di Sarro: World Disclosure

Curated by Prof Paola Ballesi

World Disclosure is an exhibition that commemorates the artistic contribution by two renowned Italian artists who lived in two distant cities: Rome (Italy) and Johannesburg (South Africa). The exhibition showcases excellent works of art by acclaimed sculptors, Luigi di Sarro (1941- 1979) and Edoardo Villa (1915-2011). The works selected for this exhibition reflect both artists’ profound understanding of design principles. These works depict great ability and magnificent use positive and negative spaces that show harmonious linear form, balanced composition, three-dimensional volume and significant understanding of the sculptural material used.

This international temporary exhibition to be held in the Villa Museum in the Old Merensky Building is kindly brought to you by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Pretoria in collaboration with the Luigi Di Sarro’s Centre of Documentation for Contemporary Artistic Research in Rome and the University of Pretoria Museums in the Department of UP Arts


February 2018

“Redefining Social Cohesion” Temporary Exhibition

25 January 2018 – 20 February 2018

This temporary art exhibition involves urban and peri-urban artists whose works of art and subject matter have relevant interpretation on social cohesion patterns of social unity. The objective of the exhibition is to increase art understanding and awareness, as well as uplift and celebrate the quality of visual art talent in the South African context. The exhibition set ups are designed based on the nature of allocated spaces. This exhibition reflects South African social attraction expressions. Selected artists whose artworks speak to a broader audience and depict the epitome of South African social introspection on cohesion. These works help to promote and enrich the culture of art appreciation which is generally not dominant amongst the general South African society. The intended target audience inter-alia includes art lovers; art students; art analysts as well as all interested visitors.

The selected artists, whose works are proudly displayed, are chosen based on the relevance of their artworks to the cohesion art exhibition theme. These are renowned and up-coming artists who have secured an excellent niche on competitive art market platforms. Participation of these artists in the exhibition has a mutual benefit. First, the artists receive a greater publicity spring-board and marketing advantage and second, the art track record of these artists is a draw card needed to attract art lovers to the exhibition venue.

Daily exhibition walk-abouts will be conducted by the exhibition curator, Mr. Daniel Mosako. This exiting exhibition can be found in the Old Merensky building, in the Villa Museum on main campus of the University of Pretoria.  It is open freely for visitors Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:00.  Alternatively, tours to view the collection can also be booked with the museum officer, Nicole Hoffmann, email: [email protected] or phone (012 420 2178).


September 2017

‘Museums beyond Walls’ – a Public Sculpture Route at UP

UP Arts and the Museums celebrate Heritage Month

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

To celebrate Heritage Month in September 2017, the Department of UP Arts would like to focus attention on UP’s unique public sculpture route as a means of taking the ‘Museums beyond Walls’. Due to easy access, the route is part of a causal walking tour attracting audiences with the history, meaning and interpretation of the sculptures and their sculptors. The public sculpture route allows the opportunity to further engage with current issues such as decolonialism, femininity, gender, local art and access to heritage while exploring the artistic sculpture gems on main campus.

This Heritage Month come explore the artistic treasures on the Hatfield Campus with UP Arts. 


24 August 2017

1990-2017 the Old Merensky Library Building declared a national monument

Twenty-seven years ago the Old Merensky Library was declared as a national monument!

As part of the former legislation, the National Monuments Act Number 28 of 1969, the then Department of National Education declared the building located on the Hatfield Campus as a national monument.  In the meantime, the old legislation has been replaced by the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999.  This act declared that all former national monuments would automatically be granted provincial heritage status.  Therefore, the Old Merensky Library remains an important heritage site on campus. 

In 1933 the University of Pretoria decided to construct a separate building for the library, which was then still located in the Old Arts Building. With a contribution of £5000 from mining geologist Dr Hans Merensky, it was constructed on 11 October 1937. General Jan Smuts laid the foundation stone on 11 October 1937 and on 15 April 1939 the building was officially opened.

In designing the building, architect Gerhard Moerdyk was influenced by various styles, including Art Deco, Neo-Classicism, Arts and Crafts, as well as local styles such as Cape Dutch and Regency. Moerdyk himself described the building as a study in Persian style, with influences from Africa, including Zimbabwe and Ancient Egyptian ruins. He used local materials and incorporated symbols of African origins. The prominent zigzag pattern, for example, is taken from Great Zimbabwe and represents water and fertility. The curving of the walls symbolises an open book. The green, bevelled glass windows were imported from Italy and helped to minimise heat from the sun and also protected paper from ultraviolet light. The design of the building is a source of controversy and speculation with some claiming that Moerdyk used it as a practice run for the design of the Voortrekker Monument, as there are many similiarities between the two buildings. Today, the Old Merensky Library houses the Sculptural Collections of the University of Pretoria Museums, as well as the Mimi Coertse and other library collections.


10 August 2017

UP Arts committed to conserving unframed works of art

The Department of UP Arts have commenced with a major long-term project to conserve over 8600 unframed works of art on paper from the UP-Art Collection. It is well-known that the University is the custodian of an extensive art collection, many of which are on public exhibition across all nine campuses. However, the unframed works of art (e.g. prints, etchings, engravings, drawings and watercolours) tend to go unnoticed and in general, receive little attention often retained in museum storage. This pilot preservation project in association with Art Revive, is done with the specialist expertise of Sandra Markgraaf, an external art conservator. The works on paper range from as early as 16th century engravings through to 19th century European portraits that originate from the Van Gybland-Oosterhoff collection.

Donated to the University of Pretoriain 1937, this collection can be considered the first major donation of an Art Collection. It also contains a one-of-a-kind engraved artwork dating back to 1580, making it the oldest artwork on paper at the University of Pretoria. The preservation process so far has revealed invaluable provenance information with "hidden" sketches, personal hand written notes and priceless information on the back of some of the artworks that were previously mounted and pasted onto board. The conservation process has thus revealed never-before-seen information, which is contributing to wider knowledge and new research about some of the valuable unframed works on paper in the UP-Art Collection.


18 July 2017

UP Museums celebrate Mandela Day by commemorating the Rivonia Trialists

The University of Pretoria's Edoardo Villa Museum is presenting an exhibition honouring the Rivonia trialists in commemoration of Mandela Day this year. The exhibition opened on 18 July – the birthday of South Africa's first democratically elected president, the late Nelson Mandela – and will be on public display until the end of the month.  The Edoardo Villa Museum is located in the Old Merensky Library, on the University's Hatfield Campus.

Artist Marie Vermeulen-Breedt has painted twelve portraits of the trialists, including Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Walter Sisulu and Dennis Goldberg. The portraits are large – to show the iconic status of the trialists – and painted in sepia, symbolising their shared purpose and one-ness.  'The trialists made a historic contribution that led to the political emancipation of South Africans and paved the way for the first democratic government in South Africa. By commemorating their sacrifice, we are reminded of the democratic ideals that underpin our society, and Mandela Day is a fitting time for this reflection,' said curator Daniel Mosako.

'I hope that the value of working towards a common elevated purpose, an element that these heroes embody, will inspire the leaders of today,' said Vermeulen-Breedt.


12 June 2017

French Ambassador visits UP Museums

H.E. Mr Christophe Farnaud, Ambassador to the Embassy of France in Pretoria and Mr Frank Marchetti, Cultural Counsellor, Head of Cooperation and Director of the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) visited the Department of UP Arts on Monday 12 June 2017 to view the new museum galleries and vast array of ceramic collections. Members of the diplomatic core and other representatives from the French Institute were welcomed through the museum galleries, which included a special viewing of the Mapungubwe gold rhino as one of the highlights of the formal visit. His Excellency, Mr C. Farnaud remarked that, "to have access to the national treasures of Mapungubwe in those conditions is a privilege... congratulations to the whole team for the impressive quality of this world-class museum."


09 June 2017

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa views Mapungubwe gold rhino

It is not every day that the UP Museums receive a notable international dignitary such as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from the US State Department. Following her visit to Zimbabwe and South Africa, having met several government authorities and other representatives, Carol Thompson O' Connell the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs mainly deals with health aspects, public diplomacy, public affairs efforts, and related educational issues. She is currently the first officer appointed by the Trump administration to deal with African Affairs. This was her first visit to Africa since her new appointment, and she specifically chose to visit UP, which included a special viewing of the Mapungubwe gold rhino in the Museums. According to Denver Hendricks, Manager of Government Relations and Special Projects she is also interested in "how Africa's coming youth bulge will affect stability and the economy, how that is playing out on campus, and how the university is addressing that to build the next generation of democratic leaders".

Accompanied by Denver Hendricks, during a formal visit to the Old Arts Building on Friday 9 June 2017, Carol O'Connell together with representatives from the US Embassy, Prof Theo van Wyk, Head of the Department of UP Arts, Sian Tiley-Nel, Chief Curator of the Mapungubwe collection, Bernard Hanekom, City of Tshwane, Regional Director of Special Projects and Lucas Luckhoff, CEO, Hatfield Community Improvement District visited the UP Museums with a special focus on the Mapungubwe gold rhino. Remarking, "...if the gold rhino had a name?" O' Connell felt privileged to see one of South Africa's greatest archaeological treasures and remarked on its educational importance being on public display on a university campus and highlighted the importance of the preservation of South African cultural heritage. Mrs O' Connell was clearly impressed with having the brief opportunity to view the priceless collection on her formal visit to the University of Pretoria.

The Department of UP Arts in particular has had good relationships with the US Embassy in Pretoria, who in 2014 and 2015 assisted with a research grant from the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation of the museum bone tool and ivory collection. Future possible support for a proposed Mapungubwe Archive Preservation Project curated by Sian Tiley-Nel, Manager of the Museums and Chief Curator of the Mapungubwe Collection is also currently underway between the UP Museums and the US Embassy, and the DAS visit further supported this valuable partnership with the University of Pretoria.


09 June 2017

Collaboration between UP Arts and the City of Tshwane

On Friday 9 June 2017, the Department of UP Arts formally handed over Phase 1 of the Tshwane Heritage Report to the Executive Director of Culture Libraries and Heritage Services, Mrs Ntuthu Sipambo as part of a collaborative heritage project between the University of Pretoria and the City of Tshwane. The handover ceremony was attended by the Head of the Department of UP Arts, Prof. Theo van Wyk, Museum Manager, Sian Tiley-Nel, Project Manager, Mr Gerard de Kamper, other museum staff and Mr Ishmael Mbokhodo, Director: Heritage Resources Management and Mr James Boale, Deputy Director: Heritage Resources Management in the Department of Community and Social Development Services. In 2009, the University of Pretoria and the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality signed a Memorandum of Agreement. The Tshwane Heritage Report for Region 3 involved the audit, mapping and survey of heritage resources that identified and recorded over 11 310 sites, which are protected by the National Heritage Resources Act, Act No 25 of 1999. This ongoing collaborative mapping project will now enable the Tshwane Metropolitan District to commence with a formal listing of heritage sites for the City of Tshwane.


08 June 2017

Flashback: 35 years ago the Old Arts Building became a museum!

During this month of June 2017, the University of Pretoria Museums are celebrating another milestone, as the Old Arts Building was declared a museum in June 1982 - 35 years ago. 

The foundation stone for this iconic landmark on Hatfield Campus was laid on 03 August 1910 and the building was officially opened by General Jan Smuts in August 1911.  The designer of the Old Arts Building was Percy Eagle, a student of Sir Herbert Baker, the architect of the Union Buildings.  The sandstone building is characterised by Cape Dutch and Neo-Romanesque architecture, with a clock tower, Oregon pine wooden floors and slate staircases.  Stained glass windows feature the old TUC coat of arms. 

In 1968, the Old Arts building was declared a national monument.  35 years ago, it then became a museum.  Today it houses various galleries of the UP Museums and showcases the Mapungubwe collection, including the famous golden rhinoceros, as well as Dutch masterpieces, European furniture and ceramics from South Africa and around the world.  


05 June 2017

Renowned art collector from China visits UP Museums - UP Arts welcomed Mr. Ma Weidu

The Department of UP Arts recently welcomed Mr Ma Weidu, a renowned art collector from China. Mr Ma visited the University of Pretoria Museums on 5 June 2017 on his brief tour to South Africa, whilst he was on an awareness campaign for anti-rhino poaching.  He was particularly interested in viewing the University's Chinese ceramics as well as the Mapungubwe gold rhino. Mr Ma was very impressed with UP's immaculate campus, beautiful surroundings, as well as the remarkable museum collections on public display. According to Prof. Theo van Wyk, Head of the Department of UP Arts, 'it is always a privilege for us to host renowned and interesting visitors with such expertise as Mr Ma’s, who has demonstrated that the interest in antiquity is beyond monetary value and should rather be based on the wider appreciation of priceless art and in this respect, of Chinese culture.’

Mr Ma is the founder of the Guanfu Museum of Classic Arts in Beijing, the first privately-owned museum in China that was official approved as a registered corporate body. As an art lover, Mr Ma has accumulated an expansive collection over twenty years, with a penchant for porcelains from the Ming Dynasty (AD 1338-1644) and Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911), and also has a remarkable collection of Chinese gold, other metal objects and furniture. The Guanfu Museum was opened in 1996 as the first private museum, which he curated by filling it with antiques bought in the late 1970s and 1980s. The museum has expanded to several branches across China: Hangzhou in 2002, Xiamen in 2005 and three more museums on the way in Shanghai, Harbin and Shenzhen.  Ever keen to attract as many visitors as possible, Mr Ma, a serious cat lover, recently named 20 felines as assistant curators, enticing visitors to view both the cats alongside learning something about Chinese porcelains.

Mr Ma views museums "…as a social facility with an educational purpose', and although the Guanfu Museum reflects a personal interest in antiquities, the role of both private and public museums play an important role in promoting knowledge, enlightenment and inspiration in the minds of the museum-goers". Today the Guanfu Museum plays both an academic role and on a social level discussing the many opportunities and challenges that museums face in a rapidly expanding and technologically orientated world.

Born in 1955 in Shandong Province, Mr Ma is regarded as a 'self-made man' with a great passion for art. Coming from a modest background, he was initially a journalist and later a writer and literary editor, publishing hundreds of novels and non-fiction works. He later became a film producer and apart from being a very successful businessman, he is also a renowned art collector. Mr Ma was also a guest speaker on a popular television programme titled, The Lecture Room, with exciting lectures about Chinese porcelains and other antiquities as he hopes to raise public awareness about traditional Chinese culture and the value of preserving collections in museums. 


15 May - 19 May 2017

The University of Pretoria Museums Mark International Museum Week

Museums and contested Histories: saying the unspeakable in museums

Worldwide International Museum Day is celebrated annually on the 18th of May. This day was established by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in 1977 to create public awareness of the role of museums in the development of society and in South Africa.  This day’s popularity has been steadily gaining momentum. Last year, over 35 000 museums from 145 different countries participated in and promoted this important yearly event.  This year on 18 May 2017, the theme chosen by ICOM is “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums”. 

The Department of UP Arts responsible for UP Museums hopes to create greater awareness during International Museum Week from 15 until 19 May 2017. The Mapungubwe collection is open as usual, free of charge during the daily operating hours of Monday to Friday from 08:00-16:00. All visitors are welcome to view the famous gold rhino, one of the most contested archaeological artefacts in South Africa. Plan your visit and explore the other museum collections at your own leisure or to book a specialised tour.  For further information and for arrangements for access to the Hatfield Main Campus of the University of Pretoria, please contact us via email or telephone.  Secure, paid parking is available at the Engineering Building 3 Parkade from the University Road Entrance. 

Join the UP Museums and the world in celebrating International Museum Day!


September 2016

University of Pretoria Celebrates Heritage Month

The University of Pretoria Museums celebrates Heritage Month by inagurating the re-launch of the Museums.This forms part of an expansion project that has been in preparation for the last five years, with new galleries which feature six revamped and expanded exhibition spaces providing wider public access to the Eastern, Western and South African ceramic collections, select artworks and the newest art acquisitions.

The Eastern wing of the Old Arts Building on Hatfield Campus features the World of Ceramics, showcasing the extensive Eastern ceramic collections from China, Japan and other East-Asian ceramics. The Western ceramics gallery displays rare, commemorative War ceramics, European (Dutch, German, French, English, Spanish) tin-glaze ceramics, recent donations of South American prehistoric ceramics, Iranian handicraft, as well as the newly revamped Van Tilburg Art Gallery. The Western wing of the Old Arts Building features the Mapungubwe Gold Gallery, which has also been revamped and the latest expansion is an entire new gallery titled, Letsopa, meaning clay in Sepedi, dedicated to showcasing K2 and Mapungubwe ceramics alongside a selection of ethnographic and historical ceramics (this will only be opne to the public from the 03 October 2016). The upper foyer has been dedicated to the University's local South African ceramic collecions, with a modern and contemporary entrance. In addition, the Old Merensky Building is also home ot the University's sculptural collections, featuring works by Edoardo Villa, Anton van Wouw and many contemporary South African sculptors which can be found in the museum and displayed across campus. 

Heritage Day is annually celebrated on the 24th of September, and is of exceptional importance to all South Africans, wiht out country's myriad of people; our museums are bound to hold something for each and everyone - come and explore your roots with the University of Pretoria Museums the whole month.


August 2016

New exhibition galleries uncovering the fascinating world of the museum ceramic collections of the University of Pretoria will be publicly launched with the University of Pretoria Museums at the end of September. The University of Pretoria Museums are currently extending their exhibition and museum spaces to incorporate more of the Eastern, Western and southern African ceramic collections, as well as the contemporary ceramic collections. The making of a peramanent exhibition is interdisciplinary and highly specialised. It is a complex and time-consuming process where planning, conceptualising and interpretation have to be heavily researched. The aim of this project is guarenteed to deliver a transformed museum space of high-quality that communicates research, education and the public enjoyment of the University of Pretoria ceramic collections. Some of the new galleries already developed include; The Letsopa (meaning 'clay' in Sepedi) Gallery, a project funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund to expand the museum's archaeological collections. New exciting galleries will include the World of Ceramics, covering themes from Eastern and Western ceramics, which include World War I and World War II commemorative war ceramics, European ceramics, Japanese ceramics, ceramics from the Ancient Mesoamericas and Ancient Near East, as well as a new gallery dedicated to the Van Tilburg Art Collection.


15 July 2016

The University of Pretoria Musuems commemorated the start of the Battle of Delville Wood, which took place in 1916, and paid homage to the lives of the University of Pretoria staff, students, alumni and all South African lives which were lost during the First World War. The Last Post, played on French Horn by M. Roper of St Alban's College, was sounded at 12:15 on the main steps of the Old Arts Building, a video of this is availble under "Special Features" on the Home Page.


June 2016

The Mapungubwe Gold Gallery has recieved a major upgrade and revamp with new interpretative displays which introduce the archaeological site of Mapungubwe and cover its rediscovery, excavation and curation history. Ten new exhibition panels featuring more in-depth information about the Mapungubwe Gold Rhino and assoiated gold burials, themes for visitors to explore include indigenous gold technology, and the conservation and symbolism of the gold collection. New seating is now also available for viewing several Mapungubwe videos on a 55" screen, thereby enhancing the experience.


18 May 2016

The theme of 2016 International Museums Day, which is celebrated by more than 35,000 museums worldwide is to enhance the idea of museums as territorial centres involved in actively conserving the cultural landscape, as the primary mission of museums is to oversee heritage, whether it be inside or outside their walls. The University of Pretoria Museums form an important part of the university's cultural landscape as they are the repositores that collect, curate and interpret tangible and intangible testimonies of thier environment.


4 April 2016

The University of Pretoria recieved additional new storage in the Letlotlo Building on Groenkloof Campus. This state-of-the-art facility was offically opened in the 4th of April 2016 by the Department of Facilities Management. This much needed storage space mainly houses the museum's historical furniture collection, the portrait collection, and other smaller collections that are not displayed. The relocation of more than 1296 museums items were moved over a period of a year to the new storage facility.

- Author Nicole Hoffmann
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Last edited by Nicole HoffmannEdit