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Edoardo Villa

Edoardo Villa

Italian / South African | 1915 - 2011

Edoardo Daniele Villa was born in the village of Redona, on the outskirts of Bergamo, Italy in 1915. He studied the basic techniques of sculpture at the Scuola d'Arte Andrea Fantoni, under the sculptors Minotti, Lodi and Barbieri. As a young artist, he completed a number of public commissions for reliefs in his home town. Villa was about to continue his art studies in Milan when he was called up for two years of military service.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Villa was conscripted into the Italian army under Mussolini and was wounded in the North African campaign. He was captured by English forces and hospitalised in Egypt before being sent to South Africa as a prisoner-of-war. Together with 70,000 Italians, he was held at the Zonderwater camp in the Transvaal from 1942.

Unlike most of his fellow prisoners, Villa decided to stay in South Africa on his release in 1947, settling in Johannesburg. He went on to become the foremost abstract sculptor in South Africa - rejecting traditional European art practices and mimetic sculpture that defined the South African scene in the 1950s.

Villa was passionately dedicated to the creation of an African identity in his work - an aim which was initiated and further explored through his friendship with two collectors of modern and African art, Egon Guenther and Vittorini Meneghelli. He became a member of the Amadlozi group, along with Cecil Skotnes, Sydney Kumalo, Giuseppe Cattaneo and Cecily Sash. In 1963, Egon Guenther organised an exhibition for the Amadlozi group around different cities in Italy, showing their work in Rome, Venice, Milan and Florence.

Today, Edoardo Villa's public sculptures mark the metropolitan landscape of Johannesburg ? his sculptures are better represented in that city than the work of any other artist. His numerous works have transformed the urban landscape of many South African cities. He has established himself as a prominent figure in the South African art scene, as a member of the South African Arts Association and the South African Council of Artists, and through long-standing relationships with prominent universities, such as the University of Pretoria and the University of Johannesburg. He has represented South Africa at the Sao Paulo Biennale as well as in the Venice Biennale on five occasions, and has had more than 100 solo and group shows worldwide.

The Edoardo Villa Museum at the University of Pretoria was opened in 1995, on his 80th birthday. He also received the Chancellor's Medal of the University of Pretoria. A second Villa museum was established close to his birthplace, in Treviglio, by Giovanni Cervi, a fervent collector of his sculptures.

Information courtesy of Johans Borman Fine Art

Auction Results

Edoardo Villa
Fee, dated 1992, Painted steel, 54cm (h)

Estimate R 20 000 - 30 000
SOLD: R 117 250

Strauss & Co
October Online Sale 2020
Edoardo Villa
Traverse, 1957, Steel sculpture

Estimate R 2 000 000 - R 3 000 000
SOLD: R 4 893 400

Aspire Art Auctions
September 2020


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