Cultured Magazine

Summer 2014

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Page 135 of 206

"I've never strived for perfection. In people and in interiors it's quite boring, isn't it?" says Belgian designer, Axel Vervoordt before he expounds on the Japanese wabi-sabi concept of humility, transience and authenticity. All of his projects—including a recent Tribeca penthouse for Robert De Niro—pay homage to the ravages of time and serve up simplicity as sophistication. A pioneer of the mix, to Vervoordt's honed, anti- quarian eye, a late Ming period vase, an 18th- century sofa, a 1950s slit canvas by the artist Lucio Fontana, a 2nd-century Etruscan head and a weathered farm bench seem familial. "My taste isn't really eclectic; it's harmonious. Or maybe, it's a dialogue between objects from dif- ferent periods and cultures." Thanks to several popular coffee table books, a watered-down version of Vervoordt's eloquent decorating—typified by wide-planked floors, neutral linen upholstery, a gnarled oak stool, a piece of modern art and a stone relic— trickled down to the mass market several years ago. But even the cognoscenti view his scholarly, tour de force installations at major European an- tique fairs as forward-thinking. Vervoordt's leg- endary art direction has maintained his status as a tastemaker par excellence, and each year he sets the curatorial and philosophical bar higher. Research on proportion—the theme of his exhibition at the 2015 Venice Biennale—is already underway. Then there are the design aficionados who revel in Vervoordt's patrician lifestyle and have even made the pilgrimage to his home, a 50- room, 12th-century, Régence-style castle just outside his birthplace of Antwerp. Here he en- joys daily rides on his prized Lipizzaner dressage stallion and supervises a well-tended, park-size garden, as well as a moat. "We take none of it for granted, and we like to turn every meal into a feast," he says, relating how he and his wife, May, often dress formally for candlelit dinners, even when they take place in the kitchen. A precocious Vervoordt first bought antiques locally at the age of 12. Within two years he was traveling to attend sales at stately but rundown English homes. "I bid on anything and everything I loved and researched it afterwards," he says. "I bought against prevailing trends, which I still do, because it's fashion's nature to quickly become un- fashionable." At age 21, he sold a seminal Magritte 134 CULTURED The celebrated designer, curator and antiquarian, Axel Vervoordt, creates cerebral, sublime style but never for its own sake. BY LINDA O'KEEFFE PORTRAIT BY LAZIZ HAMANI THE ART OF AXEL

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