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Art Dealer and Designer Axel Vervoordt Uncovers What Is Timeless and Universal Through His Collection of Art

Step inside Vervoordt’s historic castle to discover his thoughtful approach to living with art

“I started very young with this passion of living with beautiful things and loving art and lovely objects,” shares Belgian designer and art and antiques dealer Axel Vervoordt. Vervoordt started his antique business in 1969 at the age of 21 in the Vlaeykensgang, a medieval alleyway with fifteenth- and sixteenth-century houses in the center of Antwerp. “I turned one of the houses into my home from where I dealt in art and antiques. The process of restoring these houses gave me valuable lessons in my study of architecture and living with history. I didn’t have a proper ‘shop’ at that time, I preferred to work from my home and to invite my clients into my personal living area. So almost everything in my home was for sale. I dealt in silverware, furniture, tapestries, Old Master paintings, but also in Oriental sculptures and even contemporary art.” Designing interiors was a logical next step. “My wife, May, loved working with fabrics and colors and advised our clients for their interior. In the beginning, we worked with external interior designers, but very soon we engaged draftsmen and interior architects for our company. Now we work with a big team on about 25 projects worldwide.”

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Axel and May Vervoordt together in Axel’s study. A portrait of Ida Barbarigo (1990) by her husband Zoran Music hangs above the sofa.

Today, home for the Vervoordts is a castle near Antwerp with roots dating back to the 12th century. They live among their collection of art, which ranges from antiques to contemporary art from all over the world. “I always liked to mix antique art and contemporary art, discovering what was timeless, what was universal. I think this dialogue between old and new has been a very important theme in my life.”

See how Axel Vervoordt lives with art and explore how his collecting philosophy extends far beyond his collection in the latest video from TEFAF's Living with Art series.

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Axel Vervoordt sitting in the wabi-room. The self-designed sofa is installed on a toko-no-ma, or platform for meditation and think-tanks. The humble objects behind reflect the spirit of the beauty of imperfection.
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Toko-no-ma, or platform for silence, in the wabi-room with a bronze Natura (1959-60) by Lucio Fontana and a drawing (1990) by Gutai artist Sadaharu Horio.
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The blue hallway on the left, leading towards the dining room. Above the door, an Italian still life attributed to Pseudo Fardella (1600). On the right, the blue-and white dining room filled with part of the ‘Hatcher’ collection—Chinese Ming porcelain coming from a shipwreck— and a Bohemian crystal chandelier (circa 1800).
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The first floor salon with Fusta i marró forodat (1972) by Antoni Tàpies on the left, a Gutai painting (1962) by Masatoshi Masanobu on the right.
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On the left the “new” orangery, added to the property by Axel and May Vervoordt in the 1980s to store plants during the winter. It is used as an extra living space in the summer, with views on the flower garden. The “old” orangery in the outer buildings of the castle on the right, now used for concerts and receptions.
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Axel and May Vervoordt’s historic castle. The Southern façade in the French Rococo style was added in 1745 by the famous architect Jan-Pieter van Baurscheit. The large terrace faces the parkland.
Photography by: K. Geudens

Exhibitor: Axel Vervoordt | Antwerp
Related tags Living With Art

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