“I’ve just fallen off my horse.” Axel Vervoordt appears over video link, clearly intact as he strides into his office with an energy that is obscene for a septuagenarian. He collapses in his chair, laughing. As on most days, the Belgian designer, art dealer and curator has been putting his stallion through his paces in the grounds of his 12th-century castle, which he shares with his wife, May, in ‘s-Gravenwezel, near Antwerp. Today’s gallop through 62 acres has not gone to plan. “I love horses – my father was a horse dealer – but I’m a little less passionate today,” he jokes.
Vervoordt’s ability to laugh through mishap puts me in mind of his book Stories and Reflections (Art de vivre & Voyages), in which he describes “inheriting happiness”. In it, he movingly recounts the story of his mother and her sudden decline in health due to a heart attack, which she attributed to “pure happiness”. She had attended a party at her son’s home the evening before, and been overwhelmed by the occasion. “Happiness runs in the family,” she told him, before regaling him with the story of his great-grandfather who apparently died on the spot when presented with a medal by the King of Belgium.
Vervoordt has undoubtedly inherited that gene. His spiritual approach to life and work is well documented, with former client Sting once describing him as “joyful”. He is certainly a raconteur, whose many stories include his first outing at the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris in 1982. Ralph