Makgati Molebatsi is the quintessential modern woman. Not only does she cut an elegant figure – svelte, poised and stylish – she also gave up a 30-year career as a high-flyer in marketing to pursue her art dreams. Not the expected choice of the straight-and-arrow path usually followed by the so-called baby-boomer generation.
By: Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine
In April 2018, Makgati Molebatsi launched what will be monthly EduArt Sessions, geared towards empowering novices and established art lovers to acquire art that appreciates in value.
Questions many art enthusiasts ask include: how do we know we’re making the right investment? What do we look for when buying art as an investment? Professional and emerging collectors, and small to medium-sized business owners gathered to hear Makgati share a wealth of experience garnered through an obsession and deep love for African art.
Makgati says her art affair began around 1993 and 1994 when the new South Africa became the destination du jour. As a Sharpeville resident, her friends who were hosting international visitors would ask her to drive them around and show them the sights of Soweto.
Hanging around these creatives, she quietly became absorbed and fascinated by their clever conversations about art; and soon these strangers became her close friends.
Mak’Dct Art Advisory and Agency
Twenty years later, she founded Mak’Dct Art Advisory and Agency, an independent advisory service focused on contemporary art by African artists.
Makgati says she always knew she didn’t want to sell art but still wanted to be involved in the world. Meanwhile, from 1993 to 2015, she carved out a formidable career working in experiential marketing and integrated communications.
“I moved around a lot in the corporate world at Johnson & Johnson, Revlon, Eskom, Edgars and Prasa,” she shares.
Makgati recounts working with now mining magnate Bridgette Motsepe (wife of energy minister Jeff Radebe and older sister of billionaire Patrice Motsepe) at Revlon, travelling, going out into the field doing experiential marketing, activations, and training hairdressers and women about how to use the new hair products coming into the market.
“Bridgette and I used to host workshops with True Love and Thandi magazine once a month, and do presentations to educate their readers about Revlon products.”
Marketing took her all over the world, but specifically the length and breadth of Africa.
“Whenever I would visit cities in Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia, I would spend at least two full days visiting galleries and studios,” she says. “I loved it, but I wanted to be involved in art full time.”
A Passion For African Art
After volunteering at the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale in 1997 as an administrator in hospitality, liaising with artists and arranging travel, visas and accommodation, her interest in contemporary art sparked her to begin collecting pieces by African artists.
One of the first works she owned was a gift from a friend: a Winston Saoli diptych, entitled Man Bird. “I didn’t understand the work, never mind the title,” she says. Regrettably, Makgati took the work to a market to have it framed and only collected one half of it and never picked up the other.
“But then, of course, the more I travelled and attended art fairs, the more my love and understanding grew. And then the buying and trading began.”
Her home, situated in the trendy but understated suburb of Melville, is now decorated wall-to-wall with works by artists such as Dinkies Sithole, Liz Grobler, Samson Mnisi and Wayne Barker, among others. “Some of my art is on loan to friends and galleries and offices,” she says.
Before launching Mak’Dct, Makgati completed a six-month course in art and business at Sotheby’s in London in 2016. Now, her consultancy not only has her putting together collections for collectors, devising line-ups for programmes, but has also birthed a life-long dream: EduArt Sessions.
Makgati currently sits on the board of the Bag Factory Artists Studios, a visual arts organisation providing studios and residency programmes for local and international artists, in Johannesburg and serves on the organisation’s fundraising committees.
The factory is credited for having kick-started the careers of many young artists, but Makgati laments the lack of women in the art space. “They show great potential but don’t produce more work after leaving the Factory,” she says. “They get absorbed in lecturing or managing galleries.”
Makgati puts this down to the demands of motherhood, and the lack of funding and sustained support within the field, among other challenges women face in the arts.
She also provides mentorship with the visual arts sector in Johannesburg and participates in Business and Art South Africa mentorship programme.
EduArt is a sum of all her talents, expertise and passion: “Through sharing deep knowledge about visual art and the creative process of the artist, the lectures advance artistic discourse, specifically around art and the creation of value,” says Makgati.