The Aesthete: Axel Vervoordt talks more personal taste

The designer and antiquarian concludes his list of likes with his horse Raio, Wagner’s Parsifal and the art of Lucio Fontana

Axel Vervoordt in his study with a Gutai painting
Axel Vervoordt in his study with a Gutai painting | Image: Jake Curtis

My style icon is a personal friend of mine, Herbert Kasper. He is 92 and is always well-dressed, never over-dressed, with an informal, nonchalant chic – and I love his humour. He has great taste in classical things, but despite his age, he is still interested in contemporary art and young people. His collection ranges from Old Master drawings to Picasso, Gutai paintings and contemporary photography.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Lucio Fontana. He really gave body to emptiness before anyone else – he created a third dimension – and it was something I hadn’t seen in any other art before. I bought my first Fontana through the artist Jef Verheyen when I was 21 years old.

Ceramics handmade by Vervoordt for a client in Tokyo
Ceramics handmade by Vervoordt for a client in Tokyo | Image: Jake Curtis

The best book I’ve read in the past year is usually something that I have asked my wife to read and then I ask her which bits I should read; I have so little time to read unless I am studying. I’m in the period now where I would rather talk to interesting people than read a book. Having said that, I’ve worked on my memoirs [Stories and Reflections] in the past year with my son-in-law Michael. Every time I thought of a story I put a title in my phone, and then I started telling him all the stories. It’s nice for me but also nice for my grandchildren to read later, and I like to share it with young people: I think there are a lot of lessons in it about how simple things can have an enormous influence in your life.

The best gift I’ve given recently was a ceramic I made myself for a client in Tokyo. Someone on our team teaches me different techniques. I like the idea of taking earth and making something in which every gesture is there: if you are angry it will feel angry; if you are peaceful, then you feel that too – and then the fire decides.

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An indulgence I would never forgo is my horse, Raio. I like to ride as much as I can. I’ve been around horses since childhood, but I didn’t ride for a long time because I was working too hard.

The best gift I’ve received recently is a DNA test that my son-in-law Michael gave to me. I did the test but we haven’t seen the results yet. I am very curious to see what comes back.

Vervoordt’s memoirs, Stories and Reflections
Vervoordt’s memoirs, Stories and Reflections

The last music I bought was Franco Fagioli’s Handel Arias with the Il Pomo d’Oro ensemble. It’s so festive, and the way it’s sung is unbelievably good; it really captures the spirit of Handel. We hosted a concert here for Franco at Kanaal in March. kanaal.be.

A recent “find” is Wagner’s Parsifal, which I recently saw at the Antwerp opera house – I loved it. The production was under the direction of Tatjana Gürbaca, and it was a very pure, austere performance: I found it to be an almost meditative experience. The American tenor Erin Caves and the German mezzo-soprano Tanja Ariane Baumgartner were fantastic in the leading roles. Vlaamse Opera Antwerp, Frankrijklei 3, 2000 Antwerp (+323-202 1020; operaballet.be).

Vervoordt’s horse Raio
Vervoordt’s horse Raio | Image: Jake Curtis

In my fridge you’ll always find tomatoes and a vegetable or green soup. I like all fresh vegetables. And champagne, sometimes from Ruinart or Dom Pérignon. We only drink champagne with guests; I would never drink it on my own. domperignon.com. ruinart.com

The last meal that truly impressed me was a wonderful dinner with a few artistic friends that my son Boris arranged recently when I was in Moscow. It was in a beautiful private apartment with a lived-in, personal atmosphere, and it was dressed with a mix of various objects, artworks and furniture that I’d designed especially for them. There was wine, caviar and lots of candlelight. 

Franco Fagioli’s Handel Arias, with the Il Pomo d’Oro ensemble
Franco Fagioli’s Handel Arias, with the Il Pomo d’Oro ensemble

An object I would never part with is my iPhone, as I am never away from it. But also a pencil and a rubber, because wherever I am I like to start drawing – normally architecture. From £449; apple.com.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I have no idea what I would be. I have always loved what I am doing and it evolves all the time.

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