city, houses

makgati molebatsi's melville home showcases her love for art

Elsa Young
When art consultant Makgati Molebatsi needs to brush up on some reading and research, a reliable go-to is Art of the Twentieth Century by Karl Ruhrberg, Manfred Schneckenburge, Christiane Fricke and K Honnef (Taschen, 1998).

A statuesque and smiling Makgati Molebatsi opens a bright red-orange door to reveal the modern, industrial-style home she has been living in for the past 14 years in Melville, Johannesburg. Previously owned by South African architect Xavier Huyberechts, Makgati’s abode – adorned in a palette of greys, black and off-white with splashes of orange and red – mirrors her cool and collected personality, occasionally peppered with bursts of giggles and a bright, warm light that comes to her eyes when she talks about her passion: art. At the entrance hangs a formidable work by Liz Grobler, a huge sculpture of interlinked keys that Makgati says she’d wanted since the day she laid eyes on it at the now defunct Brundyn Gallery. When she eventually acquired the piece, she knew exactly where it belonged. ‘So much glass! I love it!’ were the first words out her mouth when she toured the house initially. As you wind your way down the staircase leading from the living room to the dining area downstairs, light streams in through the double-volume windows and doors, revealing a courtyard made for entertaining. After renovations, tiles, railings and a custom-made staircase replaced the original screed and wood, says Makgati. Offering to draw the pulleys that open up the glass doors leading to the courtyard, she says, ‘I often have my art friends staying over when they’re here for exhibitions and fairs.’ It’s clear the space holds happy memories of festive gatherings – and the promise of more to come.
Splashes of crimson brighten the pared-back palette throughout – as evident in one of Samson Mnisi’s untitled monoprints on the wall in the upstairs living area, next to which hangs a Parentesi pendant light in Red by Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzù for Flos. Lending the space a more formal feel are vintage Mid-Century occasional chairs handed down from Makgati’s mother that have been re-covered in cream fabric, also from Mavromac. To their left is a metal sidetable from Tonic Design, which picks up on the grey sofa from Weylandts and is lit from above by a Delight wall lamp by Frans van Nieuwenborg for Ingo Maurer.

As the owner of her two-year-old art consultancy business Mak’Dct Art Advisory & Agency, Makgati’s entry into the art world was an organic one. Although she fell into it by chance, it was obvious that something greater than herself was steadily pushing her in that creative direction. Makgati was born and raised in Sharpeville in southern Gauteng, saying it was around 1993 and 1994 when artists, musicians and creatives began to visit South Africa in full force, and her friends often roped her into driving them around on a tour of Soweto. It wasn’t long before those artists became close friends and teachers, schooling her on the arts and having intellectual conversations around her that she quietly absorbed. Twenty years later, Mak’Dct (meaning ‘Makgati’s an art addict’) was born. The art consultancy service, which she has carved out and fine-tuned to suit her personality and complement the relationships she’s cultivated over the years, sees her working closely with collectors, and kitting out their homes or professional spaces with contemporary African art. Walking around her home, it’s difficult not to mentally clock all the art and ask where the paintings, sculptures and installations are from. Each one’s acquisition has a personal story that accompanies it. ‘The lamp is an Ingo Maurer Zettel’z 5 that I’d coveted for a very long time,’ she says of the suspended light fitting in the dining room. ‘It comes with tracing papers, some with messages already printed in different languages; the other half are blank so I have occasionally asked dinner guests to write aphorisms and quotes on them.’

It’s difficult not to mentally clock all the art and ask where the paintings, sculptures and installations are from. Each one’s acquisition has a personal story that accompanies it.

From 1993 until 2015, Makgati had an impressive career in the corporate world, working in the experiential marketing space and integrated communications from rail to retail industries. The work afforded her the ability to travel, especially around Africa. ‘Whenever I visited a city, I would spend at least two full days going to galleries and studios,’ she says. But more significantly, in 1997, she volunteered her time working in hospitality at the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, where she organised visas, accommodation and entertainment for visiting internationals including Nigerian art curator Okwui Enwezor, British director and screenwriter Steve McQueen and Icelandic-Danish installation artist Olafur Eliasson, among others.
Makgati Molebatsi, who describes her style as ‘monochrome and minimal’, stands next to a slate-topped dining table from Tonic Design on a striped rug from Paco.

‘Leaf Flag’ by Joachim Schönfeldt – one of the earliest occupants of the artists studio complex Bag Factory in Johannesburg – and an untitled watercolour by Wayne Barker are just two of the works atop the sideboard in the open-plan dining area.

Having studied art and business at Sotheby’s in London in 2016, Makgati currently sits on the board of the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios and serves on their fundraising committees. The Bag Factory provides studios and residency programmes for local and international artists and, although it has been credited as the springboard for many young local talents, she points out that many of the women who show great potential and produce great work there often don’t go on to produce more. ‘They become absorbed in lecturing or managing galleries and just stop producing, sadly.’ Makgati also provides mentorship within the visual arts sector in Johannesburg and participates in Business and Arts South Africa’s mentorship programme. ‘What I’d like to do is do [a series of] lectures on the value and appreciation of art, get more people to come to exhibitions and acquire more art,’ she says.
In the kitchen, vibrant bursts of red and orange continue the lively colour thread, as seen in the ’50s-style fridge from Smeg.

Eclectic seating features a couple of retro leather chairs from her mother and two iconic DAR armchairs by Charles and Ray Eames for Vitra that Makgati discovered at a secondhand store.

House and Leisure Mellville House MayHouse and Leisure Mellville House May
A duo of untitled watercolours by the late Dinkies Sithole preside over the dining space.

House and Leisure Mellville House May
House and Leisure Mellville House MayLiza Grobler’s ‘Easy Access Scarf’ installation takes pride of place at the abode’s entrance.

House and Leisure Mellville House MayHouse and Leisure Mellville House May