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.
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.
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.