Some people’s professional and private lives are seamlessly intertwined. And some are not! The creations we produce for our brand are designed to suit all our everyday lives. But today, it’s Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen’s everyday lives we wanted to talk about. They are an art curator and a video artist living with their two boys in Antwerp, Belgium. Six years ago, they undertook the refurbishment of a former apothecary’s shop dating from the 1900s. It was the renovation of a lifetime, and they converted the second floor to accommodate their young family while reserving the first floor for the former lifestyle journalist’s art gallery, The Constant Now. “An arts organisation that aims to make the Belgian cultural scene more diverse and inclusive,” she says. Deeply committed to sharing the talents of a highly diverse ethnic group with the greatest possible number of people, the art historian fills the building from day to day with exhibitions, events and coaching sessions. At the same time, the upper floor becomes the stage for scenes of a different kind. More family-oriented and boisterous, since Saul and Nolan are in the picture. Magali and her partner have designed an open and airy living space for these two little dynamos, using second-hand pieces to decorate it. So it doesn’t matter if it is marked by felt pens or toys. Step by step, the couple is working to give a new lease of life to this former storage space. First, the central part of the building was removed to create a patio and a light well. And seeking always to bring an extra ray of sunshine into their apartment, the couple made a point of repainting their entire living space in an immaculate white, affording the wide windows the maximum number of surfaces to reflect the light.
I am Magali, an art curator who runs The Constant Now: an art organization focusing on making Belgium’s visual art scene more diverse and inclusive. Bart is an art director, graphic designer, videographer and photographer at KEEN. He and I are partners in life and work. We met more than two years ago, and we have two sons: Nolan (4 years) and Saul (1 year). We live in Antwerp-North in a renovated apothecary, which is also for rent.
I’m a trained art historian, and I worked in the art and cultural industry for years before turning to media as a lifestyle journalist. This is how I met Bart. Bart studied graphic design in Antwerp. He’s from the countryside but decided to stay in the city after his studies. He’s been working independently for as long as I’ve known him. Together we started Coffeeklatch, a blog and creative studio. We also published two books with Luster called Greenterior and Wild At Heart. Our studio, Coffeeklatch transformed into KEEN, specializing in photography, graphic design and video. Bart runs it while I am busy with the gallery.
The Black Lives Matter movement and the structural lack of diversity within the visual arts scene in Belgium inspired me to focus on talent of color and start an art gallery. As I said before, I’m a trained art historian. Picking up the tread where I left it twenty years ago went relatively smooth and natural. I feel times have changed, and people are finally ready to embrace more narratives.
We found an old pharmacy depot from 1910 with a garage on the ground floor and two lofts upstairs.
The name refers to the now and today’s society, which is very colorful and diverse. Through exhibitions, projects and collaborations, we want to show an alternative with a focus on artists of color, diversity and inclusivity. Hence the name: The Constant Now.
I like collaborating with nice people whose work I like. Good partners bring something essential to the table, whether a vision, enthusiasm, method, ethos, knowledge, network or reputation. These last few months, we have met many enthusiastic people who trust and believe in our cause and approach. I am very grateful for that.
I don’t particularly appreciate dropping names because I work with many artists who are ate the beginning of a beautiful career. It’s particularly satisfying to help them shape their vision and push them in the right direction. What moves me is the involvement and goodwill of the coaches involved in our coaching programme Poc Poc. They are all so big-hearted and eager to share their network and experience. I think we can make a change by working together, helping each other out and inspiring others to do the same.
Bart and I found this building six years ago when we were looking for a warehouse close to our old home. We needed space to build sets and do indoor shootings. We found an old pharmacy depot from 1910 with a garage on the ground floor and two lofts upstairs. Although there was little sunlight but lots of floor space, we saw its potential. Our parents called us crazy.
Nothing you see, though, was present when we purchased it, apart from the wooden beams, the brick walls, which we plastered white, and the old salvaged doors.
Yes, it was. The building is 10m wide and 20m deep, with only windows at the front facade. We took a bite out of the building to bring in more daylight and create a lush green garden. All rooms with big windows look onto the patio. Nothing you see, though, was present when we purchased it, apart from the wooden beams, the brick walls, which we plastered white, and the old salvaged doors.
As we spent most of our money on the renovation and creating a good basis and structure, we didn’t have a budget for furnishing. Most pieces are secondhand, found online or gifted by friends. And because we did photoshoots for Ikea for many years, we have a lot of Ikea furniture, collaborations they had with Ilse Crawford, like the cork benches and stools, and the wooden dining set and chairs by Piet Hein Eek.
Make sure not to spend too much money on furnishing (Laughs). Don’t buy carpets; use materials that aren’t delicate and easy to wash. Our kids destroy and add patina everything: they climb on chairs, write on the wall, bite on wood, they poke their toys on soft surfaces. There’s no way to keep our belongings safe unless we hang them on the wall or put it in the cabinet. An open-plan kitchen is advisable because it enables you to keep an eye on your children. We also spend a lot of time on the giant sofa, tucked under a warm blanket.
We also spend a lot of time with the family on the giant sofa, tucked under a warm blanket.
Looking into people’s homes and lives and feeling inspired. I love how one’s personality is reflected in their home, their belongings, their books, and plants. I don’t know what our home says about us: that we are disorganized and chaotic.
I love the historic city centre. Look at the Corolus Borromeus church, Grote Markt, and the cathedral. The best shops are in Huidvetterstraat, Wolstraat and Schutterhofstraat. Baltimore by Mark Colle is a flower Walhalla; visit Bakkerij Goossens for bread. The best bookshops are Copyright and Stad Leest. Vogeltjesmarkt is an excellent go-to on Saturday to buy fresh produce. For lunch, Marmari is great, and visit Brandbar for coffee. Middelheimmuseum is the best date outdoors for grownups and children. Go to the New South and wander around Tim Van Laere gallery.
We have more exhibitions to come in the gallery. If you visit Antwerp, drop by and have a look. But apart from more work, we are planning to spend more time with our family in the future. Our parents are getting older, and we think spending as much time with them as possible is important. Plus, the kids love their grandparents. Family is everything.
We took a bite out of the building to bring in more daylight and create a lush green garden. All rooms with big windows look onto the patio.
Photography : Valerio Geraci – Text : Juliette Bruneau @thesocialitefamily