A Perfect Night In November – Tshepo Hlongwane

I am reflecting on a perfect night in November, where Tshepo Hlongwane, founder of Brown Eyed Boy Curators, partnered with Nelson Makamo to create a unique un-curated, in-studio, art experience. Nelson generously agreed to open up his studio space to a group of art patrons, enthusiasts and those fresh to the art scene. The event took place at August House, a talent hive [ala artist studio space] nestled in the gritty heart of Johannesburg near End Street. An un-curated session organized by a curator… I know it is confusing, right? Well these things have to be done, because Art is important!

The event was aimed at creating an intimate experience for the guests to experience Nelson the man, the lauded contemporary artist from Modimolle and the human being with hopes and dreams like all of us.

The intention was an effort to break down the barriers of the art scene for new collectors. To have a unique experience where they can interact with the artist directly without the filter of a curator, a gallerist or an agent. An evening expected to be one of those indelible experiences for all involved. It was a, take the gloves off, let’s be real, tell us more, no question is too stupid session arranged for both the artist to understand his audience better and for the patrons to get an authentic experience of Nelson’s work. We wanted our guests to enjoy the art without the intimidation, structure and seriousness that sometimes comes with a gallery or museum visit.

It truly was a perfect November evening. A delicate dose of breeze in the air countered by some release of heat stored underneath the city’s belly of energy as dusk settled over the city of gold. The room was full of art, both complete and incomplete, tubes of paint, blank canvases and rolls of fabriano drawing paper ready for the whisperer. The people were beautiful, each with different levels of art experience (which is exciting on its own), it was music! Our host had put on his work coat and was in the process of completing a delightful portrait of a boy with a huge smile. The patrons experienced the organized chaos and the process of the man. The alchemy as he mixed paint to achieve his desired colours. The freedom and delicacy in his brush strokes. He leaned in very closely at times and then stepped back equally to execute on the depth of the detail.

What is a night like that without an [in]formal talk with the artist? Nelson and Tshepo took space at the center of his large studio space to have a frank conversation about the joys and pleasures of being an art practitioner, the opportunities for patrons of art in supporting artists. Not only by buying at but using your professional expertise to help artists create a legacy. Nelson spoke with humility about his trajectory and ascension into prominence and becoming one of the collectible South African artists. His passion for telling the powerful stories behind the faces of his subjects. Liberating their humanness and seeing the hope in their eyes beyond their circumstances.

Back to the importance of Art. Our very existence as a brand [Brown Eyed boy] is to promote the arts and create a world where participating in the Arts is very much part of our culture as a society and no talented artists go on to starve on our watch. We want to create where artists careers thrive like those of mainstream careers in our society. We want to live in a world where a child wanting to become an artist is met with the same excitement and financial support as a child who wants to become a medical doctor, and engineer or a chartered accountant! After all the beautiful food, wine and memorable art experience we were all left wanting more, more of this culture deep-dive into the arts to be a regular feature of our weekends. How many of us can point at an artwork in years to come or while visiting a museum as say I was in the artist’s studio while he was painting that piece!

Tshepo is the founder of Brown Eyed Boy Curators a vehicle that focuses on promoting the careers of Southern African artists and other art professionals such as s such as master printers, curators and academics. Known for curating bespoke art experiences. He curated the cutting edge Grolsch ArtFridges Exhibition at MOAD, following a campaign that commissioned artists and photographers to create unique artworks using SMEG fridges as their canvas. He is passionate about breaking down the barriers for new buys of art and encourages them to develop early and long-standing relationships with artists to support their careers. Tshepo currently serves on the board of the Bag Factory Artist Studios and advises private clients and corporates in building and preserving their art collections. He is deeply interested in the ever-evolving relationship between art and finance. His collection includes works by Nelson Makamo, Lehlogonolo Mashaba, Sam Nhlengetwa, Phamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Bambo Sibiya, William Kentridge, Velaphi Mzimba to mention a few.