The UP Museums are pleased to announce that the first phase of the new Sculpture Gallery, formerly the Edoardo Villa Museum is complete thanks to the generous support of the Edoardo Villa Trust, who funded R400 000 for phase one of the project. The initial proposal commenced in 2019 and over the 2020 pandemic, the upgrades took about a year to complete. Lelani Nicolaisen, Curator of Art Exhibitions & Galleries, managed the upgrade. This change is a means to curate the rather outdated space into a more thought-provoking contemporary space with a wider diverse collection of South African sculpture.
The gallery space in the past was reserved for the works primarily by Anton Van Wouw and Edoardo Villa, but in changing narratives and addressing decoloniality it was important to transform the space into a contemporary sculpture gallery with more representative works. A new portraiture wall is featured on a large space in the museum. The portraiture wall is not only designed to be aesthetically interesting, but also to create discussions between the different sculptures on display. Iconic portraits by Anton van Wouw, Edoardo Villa, Nell Kaye, Hezekiel Ntule, Willem de Sanderes Hendrikz and Laurika Postma, amongst others are conversing a timeline of portraiture over a century. A multitude of upgrades and improvements include: 35 new redesigned plinths, 80 floating shelves for works to be displayed on walls, window blinds were removed to let in the natural flow of light, bespoke seating was designed not only to give the visitor a space to rest, but also a space to contemplate the sculptures and creativity around them.
The Art Committee of the University of Pretoria has been immensely supportive with six new acquisitions of works by Michael Teffo, Bonnie Ntshalintshali, Philiswa Lila and Johannes Maswanganyi. These new acquisitions on display in the sculpture gallery aims to challenge new conversations of South African sculpture as a medium, as well as the newly curated spaces to enhance the visibility of the redefined narratives of sculpture. In addition, the UP Museums are also glad to welcome the return of Sun Man by the South African artist, Lucky Sibiya after having been on temporary loan to the Javett-UP Art Centre. The UP Museums will ensure the newly curated sculpture gallery will create some new conversations that matter, inspire new research frontiers and will be home to more significant South African sculptural works in the future.