In the recent past, Belgian AD100 designer Axel Vervoordt added Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West’s California home to his resume. Now, he’s part of an elite group that includes legendary musicians like Elton John, Van Morrison, and Pharrell Williams. No, Vervoordt isn’t putting together a supergroup. But the French Ministry of Culture has named him an Officier des Arts et des Lettres, a distinction bestowed upon those “who have made significant contributions to furthering the arts throughout the world,” according to a press statement.
Given the current pandemic, Vervoordt received his Officier insignia during a small ceremony at Gravenwezel castle, a medieval estate outside Antwerp that the Vervoordts have called home since the mid-1980s. The honor was presented by Hélène Farnaud-Defromont, the ambassador of France in Belgium.
The announcement makes for a promotion of sorts for the Belgian designer, who had previously been named a Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ hierarchy. Now entering the sixth decade of his career, Vervoordt began his working life with the acquisition of 16th-century Antwerp homes that he memorably transformed into a space for dealing art and antiques. His contributions to the 1982 Paris Biennale des Antiquaires propelled him to further renown. In addition to developing an international client list that grew to include the Kardashian Wests, Vervoordt’s keen curatorial sense was exemplified in exhibitions such as the 2007 “Artempo: Where Time Becomes Art,” which opened at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice. Today, the Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation and its Antwerp exhibition space at Kanaal provide a way to showcase some of the world’s great works of art to future generations.
“It’s amazing to share a little bit of this extraordinary intuition of artists, to understand art and to be interested in the art of all times,” Vervoordt said during the intimate ceremony. “Old art can be a source of inspiration for the future and contemporary art—definitely as well—creates a new civilization. I consider it as an important task to understand art and to make others understand it.”
Though an award from the Ordre Des Arts et des Lettres recognizes a lifetime of achievement, Vervoordt’s acceptance speech made it clear that his work as an insatiably curious multi-hyphenate with a passion for all things art and design is far from done yet.