The Essence of Things
He is just one of those guys that seem so happily installed in their life. That seem fulfilled with what they do, being exactly on the spot that the constellations had predestined them for. And, the great thing is that he seems to be conscious of that fact, carrying with him a sort of joy of what life has given him that he shares with generosity.
I love these guys. Those who continue sparkling ideas and creating new adventures at an age when most people would start laying back comfortably. Those who live their work in a creative and joyous fashion, refusing everyday dullness, completely assuming beauty and play as a very important part of life.
© Bertrand Limbourg
Antique dealer, artist, architect or decorator – he does not know himself how to be defined, but it is certain that he is very successful whatever it is, having created the interiors for many illustrious persons (Robert de Niro, Kanye West, Bill Gates, Sting, Calvin Klein…) and being the father of the acclaimed exhibitions “Artempo”, “In-finitum” and “Proportio” at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice.
So what does this man do that is so exceptional? Well, it is difficult to explain and still obvious. It is difficult to explain because the world is full of talented interior architects, playing on the same style-field as Vervoordt: the “used” environments that “look found, not made” as an article in Vogue put it. It is obvious because there is a very particular quality about Vervoordt’s installations, “timeless” being a too commonly used word to define it, “metaphysical” more approaching the truth.
Axel Vervoordt is a thinker and his thinking is transcended in his work. As much as the environments are created to seem a produce of hazard, of things accumulated with time, by chance, you get a very definite feel that there is an idea behind it all, a philosophy beyond aesthetics.
The Belgian artist – arts dealer – architect likes old things and he likes nature. But his love for old is not about nostalgia but about constructing the future. The used chair – which has a past, a life and a soul – not only gives energy thanks to this past but also allows us to avoid using resources to reconstruct. Using the object in new ways, in combination with other objects, is the whole idea of recuperation, which is becoming an obvious necessity in our times. For Vervoordt, therefore, antiques are more pertinent today than ever. Recuperation then is not a dull obligation but an enchanting perspective. “We need to create a new harmony” he says.
In nature, he likes the hazard of exposing materials to the elements and seeing how it works out. “I am in conversation with nature”, he says, “but I am aware that nature should always have the last word”. This thinking is linked to the reverence of the non-finished, “infinitum”. “We can strive for perfection, but we must understand that in our life there is none – and we should intentionally have room for what we do not finish because the infinity, the divine, is really present therein”. That is the beauty of imperfection – and Vervoordt’s definition of beauty as something that is in harmony with its’ surroundings more than intrinsic aesthetics.
There is magnificence in this reduction to the essence, using as much recuperation as possible whilst striving for beauty and harmony. A very modern magnificence, one would say. But a magnificence which demands other qualities. Our man does not brag with his knowledge, telling us that he simply worked with art since he was fourteen since it interested him more than school. But his exhibitions and lectures clearly prove his deep interest for proportion theory, mathematics, philosophy and music. In a lecture given in Brussels in 2014, he underlined the crucial importance of emptiness. “It is the silence
between the notes that makes the music”, he said, “any machine could play the notes, it is the way the artist uses the emptiness between them that creates the art”. The recent exhibition “Proportio” deals with the power of the square, the circle and their combination in the Fibonacci sequence – and also with the Golden Ratio. “The knowledge of proportions is almost lost with the XXth century”, says Vervoordt, “In Ancient Egypt and the Middle Ages, this was a secret knowledge, which shows just how important it is”.
Right: Proportio – Maaria Wirkkala Depending on, 2015, © Jean-Pierre Gabriel
When asked to talk about “Living with style”, Axel Vervoordt said he preferred to live with art. “Every artist brings a new part of reality. To show this reality makes the world evolve”.
His own centre of the world is his castle, Kastel van’s Gravenwezel, where he lives with his wife May. His two sons are handling more and more of the business, whilst the couple concentrates on the art foundation. They say. But there is also the “Kanaalsite” project in Antwerp, where Vervoordt develops a complete block of housing, artist studios and service facilities, according to the concept of a “true countryside village”. The artist-architect-antiques dealer’s lifestyle philosophy developed on a completely new scale?
Vervoordt says that he gets a lot of his energy from his 62-acre garden. It is a very efficient garden, indeed. And Vervoordt makes the world evolve, in his own way, with spirit and knowledge and curiosity. “I do not know how I became what I am”, he says, “It was nothing planned, I followed my intuition and my interests, trying to make the best of every moment”. The 2007 exhibition “Artempo”, the first of a series at Palazzo Fortuny, was his way, at 60, to share part of all the fascinating things he has experienced. “It is interesting to share”, he says, “sharing and being useful is important. This was my way of doing it”.