1934 - 2016


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,Josef Vettiger was born in Uznach, a small village near Lucerne, Switzerland on March 19, 1934, and died in Cali, Colombia June 16, 2016, leaving us the artwork presented on this website. He met Denise Mantzaris in Switzerland, they married in 1958 and moved to Greece where their only son Franz was born in 1959. Josef returned to Switzerland in 1960 with his family, but given his disappointment with the reception given to his artwork he moved to Cali in 1961, where Denise found work at Colegio Bolívar teaching English, literature and French. He lived and worked on a small farm in the mountains near southern Cali.

josef y denise
Denise and Josef Vettiger, c.1980

Josef led a private and reclusive life. My grandfather Jan Bartelsman and my parents were some of his few friends and we visited on a regular basis. Sometimes I would stay with Franz, a childhood friend, and spend the night with them. I remember being fascinated by all the sculptures and mobiles decorating the garden, made from agricultural machinery scrap, plowshares and the like. Those are all gone, according to Franz a lot of works were stolen from Josef’s workshop at the farm (to be sold as scrap metal), others he gave away to friends and he destroyed others with which he was not satisfied in the course of his life. After visiting I would always return home with a stack of books Denise picked for me from her huge library, which I would return to her at school, where she was my favorite teacher.

Denise fell seriously ill with Guillain-Barré Syndrome in 1992 and after spending moe than a month in intensive care she and Josef had to leave the farm and move to a house in southern Cali. Josef set up a small workshop in one of the rooms, stopped welding and working with metal and began work on plaster sculptures and oil pastel drawings, while taking care of Denise. He sculpted and drew until 2009, when his failing eyesight prevented him to continue. Denise died on February 22, 2013, after almost 55 years of marriage. Two weeks later Josef suffered the first of a series of strokes.

Josef was a perfectionist and due to this and to his reclusive tendencies he found it very difficult to arrange for the exhibition or sale of his works of art. On one occasion, back in the 70's, my grandfather Jan convinced him to do a show together but we don't remember details, it was possibly held at the Ciudad Solar gallery in Cali. Except for these scant biographical facts we know very little else about Josef’s life, Franz left his parents' home at age 16 and did not record details of his father’s education or accomplishments in the arts. Franz lives and works in San Francisco, California, has left me in charge of his father's artistic legacy and needs to sell the house where the artwork is currently stored. Josef's last wishes, expressed to Franz, were that his sculptures that could not find a place where they would be respected and appreciated be destroyed or sold as scrap metal. Franz and I decided that before that happens we would find other destinations for what is left of a lifetime's worth of work.

For this reason all of the artwork presented on this website, except those marked with a red dot, is being sold at very reasonable prices. Interested buyers can contact me at +57 311 715 4981, or send an email to

Erik Bongue, Cali, March 2017.