The exhibition PROPORTIO examined the role that proportion plays in our lives and the complex universe in which we live. By examining wide-ranging and diverse representations found in art, nature, physics, economics, history, science, music, medicine, and many other subjects, the study of proportion uncovers the natural patterns that are used to create everything in the material world.
Proportion is not only a question of numbers. Nor is it a simple comparison of measurements and dimensions in relation to a whole. According to Plato, the definition of proportion is the transition from duality to unity. It’s the investigation of how elements and patterns are connected and interconnected across disciplines. It’s the investigation of how we, as humans, perceive those patterns through our senses, as well as through our intuition. It’s also an exploration of how universal proportions guide our understanding of creation and the dynamic dance between order and chaos.
Throughout the course of known human history, the knowledge of proportions and sacred geometry in particular, has been applied across many civilizations for thousands of years. The sophisticated knowledge of sacred geometry, especially the golden ratio, was considered highly advanced and closely related to secretive spiritual wisdom and religious traditions. As a result, its use was controlled, because it was thought that it’s misuse might have undesirable consequences. In the Western world, the knowledge of sacred geometry was so secret that it was intentionally guarded for hundreds of years and may have been purposefully forgotten or discarded.
What was known? How was this knowledge used in the past? How can it help us to understand the world around us today? As an exhibition, the aim of PROPORTIO is to re-start a contemporary dialogue surrounding the lost knowledge of proportions and sacred geometry.
PROPORTIO featured specially commissioned artworks by contemporary artists, 20th century masterpieces, Old Master paintings, archaeological artefacts, as well as architectural models and a large library of historical books on proportions. All these works provide a lens to help us see what proportion can teach us about the essential design of the present and how we can use this knowledge to create a blueprint for the future. This exhibition is an opportunity to explore universal proportions and an invitation to reflect upon the interconnectedness of our universe.
Axel Vervoordt Gallery Hong Kong
The Axel Vervoordt Gallery Hong Kong is an extension of the existing gallery in Antwerp. It offers a complementary programme of specially commissioned works, and will be an important platform for internationally renowned artists to participate in the radically-changing art scene in Asia.
Since the 1970s, Axel Vervoordt has developed a strong interest in Eastern philosophy, directly feeding into the spirit of the company, which has the ambition to create a dialogue between East and West. As a result, the gallery has naturally worked with a broad range of artists who tend to explore concepts of void, universality or infinity.
Axel Vervoordt Gallery Hong Kong opened with an exhibition of the African artist El Anatsui entitled Theory of Se. It consisted of three specially-commissioned works, Affirmation, Intimation and Revelation Image, which all contemplate the role the hand plays in forecasting the fate, destiny and fortune of individuals.
Tàpies. Lo sguardo dell’artista
In the Summer of 2013 Palazzo Fortuny presents: ‘Tàpies. Lo sguardo dell’artista’ (Tàpies. The eye of the artist)’. This exhibition is organised by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and the Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation and is curated by Toni Tàpies, Natasha Hébert, Daniela Ferretti and Axel Vervoordt.
The exhibition is made in close collaboration with the family Tàpies. It shows an important selection of the Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies (Barcelona, 1923-2012) in the broader context of his own private art collection and within the intimate setting of the house of Mariano Fortuny - a fellow eclectic collector. The aim of the exhibition is to show the spirit of Tàpies’ art and to present his extraordinary eye, both as a collector and an artist. The works in this exhibition have been selected from his own house and most of them have never been show to the public before. The exhibition has been curated from an intuitive and emotional perspective, rather than providing a chronological overview of his oeuvre. Works from his private collection including 20th century masters such as Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Kazuo Shiraga, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Jannis Kounellis are presented alongside ancient oriental and tribal sculptures.
A number of prolific living artists have carefully been selected by the curators to present a tribute to Tàpies. Some of these artists were closely related to Tàpies, others have been chosen because of the way their work addresses similar questions regarding the mysterious and the inexplicable. These artists include Perejaume Borrell, Anthony Caro, Kichizaemon Raku, Shiro Tsujimura and Gunther Uecker.
Kanaal: construction underway
Construction work for the VERVOORDT project, Kanaal - A City in the Country, begins. The careful deconstruction of two of the silos marks the start of the large-scale revival of this industrial heritage site.
The works on the existing warehouses approach their final stages, set for delivery in mid 2013.
Axel Vervoordt Gallery founded
The Axel Vervoordt Gallery is founded. It favours an intense collaboration with artists and gives them a platform to exhibit new work in one-person shows. This neutral context allows artists to show art in its purest form.
The gallery’s philosophy is rooted in the Gutai and Zero movements and their exploration of the void. In its first year the gallery features exhibitions by artists first met by the Vervoordt family in the 1970s: Uecker, Opalka and Graubner.
The establishment of the gallery, located in the Vlaeykensgang in the heart of Antwerp, brings us back full circle to our company’s origins.
TRA, Edge of Becoming, Venice
In 2011 a new exhibition is organized by the Vervoordt Foundation at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice.
TRA recalls the complex and problematic ensemble of cultural and symbolic meanings that are connected to the concept of threshold and door. It concerns a physical and mental place that defines the point of interrelation between inside and outside and vice versa. It relates to the idea of crossing, of being purified and renovated through a ritual or an initiation. It is the space (or empty space) between two dimensions that marks the moment of passage from a condition to another, a breach towards new experiences. It is the idea of border that, seen from the point of view of its surpass, becomes site of process of creative transformation. When seen in a mirror, the word TRA spells ART.
Kanaal: staff move
In order to unite the various Axel Vervoordt teams, the majority of our staff, some 90 people, move to Kanaal, making it the centre of our activities, thereby freeing up the Castle as a centre for reflection.
This shift emphasizes Axel and May Vervoordt’s evolution into a mentoring role as envisaged by the Vervoordt Foundation. The company assumes the role of apprentice, in which it continues to this day.
Kanaal - Becoming a City in the Country
The Vervoordt.re project Kanaal is envisaged as an elaborate development providing apartments, offices and shops and draws on the company’s core philosophy of respecting a site’s authenticity with attention for social interaction amongst its users.
The project enters an advanced state of development, uniting art, work and living. Collaboration with architects, urbanists and landscape designers, who each bring their own view to the project, lead to the first plans being completed.
Echoing the principles of a village in the city as exemplified by the Vlaeykensgang, Dick Vervoordt presents this project as 'a small village characterized by the complexity of 21st century life, while retaining the purity of simplicity'.
In-finitum, the third and final part of the exhibition trilogy, that started with Artempo. Where Time Becomes Art in 2007, again takes place at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice.
The infinite as a never-ending road to completion, knowledge and enlightenment has inspired intellectuals, artists, scientists and literati since the beginning of reasoning times. The works shown range from archaeological fragments over incomplete Old Master paintings to contemporary installations that engage with the notion of infinity.
As with all parts of the trilogy, the catalogue, featuring evocative illustrations, essays, detailed descriptions and installation views, clearly conveys the distinctive dialogue between the art works displayed.
Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation
Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation, of which the seeds were planted with the exhibition Artempo. Where Time Becomes Art in 2007, is officially formalised.
It is the custodian of the collection established by the Vervoordt family, organizes exhibitions and fulfills educational tasks. The Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation enables Axel and May Vervoordt to share their vision with a wide audience, whilst also guaranteeing the present and future transmission of their spiritual legacy.
Academia Qui es-tu? Paris
The trilogy that began with Artempo.Where Time becomes Art continues with Academia, Qui es-tu? at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris.
“Know Thyself” was the leitmotif on which Plato’s illustrious Academy was founded. No command — since it forces upon us the inevitable question “Who are you?” or “Qui es-tu?” — has intrigued humankind more. Academia : Qui es-tu ?, examined the dynamical process of artistic creation. The site of the Chapelle de l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, permanently filled with hundreds of study copies, provides the ideal location for examining the interplay between inherited academic knowledge accumulated over centuries, education, and the subsequent transformation and transmission of that knowledge into innovative artistic creation.
Artempo. Where Time Becomes Art
In the Summer of 2007, our founder Axel Vervoordt surprises the art world with a large exhibition at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice during the Biennale of Contemporary Art. Based on the notion that time is the greatest artist, Artempo. Where Time Becomes Art examines the relationship between art, time and the possibilities of display.
Work by over 80 artists included that of Francis Bacon, El Anatsui, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Anish Kapoor, James Turrell, Loris Cecchini, Thomas Schütte, Roman Opalka and many more. The exhibition, conceived by Mattijs Visser and Axel Vervoordt, is a huge success, with more than 50.000 visitors and 10.000 copies of the catalogue sold.
This first part of a trilogy of exhibitions paves the way for the Vervoordt Foundation.
In order to free up funds to develop our business in the sale of postwar art, we hold a house sale of part of our inventory at the Castle, in collaboration with Christie’s. This sale brings new international exposure.
Its major impact however is the wind of change that sweeps through the castle, where the newly liberated space allows pieces previously held in storage to be shown in an entirely different way. With a reduced emphasis on decoration, the installation of the Castle is further distilled to its essence.
2002 sees the founding of Inspiratum, the non-profit organization initiated by Axel Vervoordt, dedicated to the enjoyment of world-class music in unique locations on an intimate scale, in an open atmosphere of friendship. Visits to collections in private homes add the visual arts and architecture to the mix.
Inspiratum fosters artistic patronage in its members. Funds raised are used to support promising young musicians through awarding scholarships, the organization of masterclasses and by providing performance opportunities. Inspiratum also writes out commissions, provides CD funding and other productional support on a case-by-case basis.
Barge: Kanaal à Paris
The dynamic created by the confrontation between ancient and contemporary art in the industrial lofts of Kanaal elicit a new way of viewing among our clients. In a bid to introduce this vision directly to traditional audiences in Paris, we moor a barge on the Seine during the Bienniale des Antiquaires.
The interior is divided into three distinct spaces in which we exhibit contemporary and ancient art and antiques. The Flemish spelling in the title Kanaal à Paris underscores the project’s geographic origins.
Anish Kapoor, At the Edge of the World
The first step towards establishing a museum on the Kanaal site is made in the acquisition of Anish Kapoor’s installation At the Edge of the World (1998). The dome-shaped object is installed in a circular building that was originally used for grinding and sifting the malt.
"The idea is to make an object which is not an object, to make a hole in the space, to make something which actually does not exist. Even more, the extraordinary appearance, loved and feared, of a piece of void, at once finite and infinite, reactivates the symbolic contact between inside and outside, earth and heaven, male and female, active and passive, conceptual and physical, thus renewing the process of knowing."
- Anish Kapoor
Our company's ongoing expansion calls for additional space, for exhibition spaces, storage and workshops. The Kanaal Site of an old malting complex along the Albert Canal in Wijnegem near Antwerp is found to be the ideal setting.
The former industrial context, with its cavernous and labyrinthine spaces, proves to be a surprisingly apt situation for the display of archaeological and contemporary pieces alike.
The Castle of 's-Gravenwezel
Following a two-year renovation, the Vervoordt family and the company move into the 50-room Castle of ‘s-Gravenwezel on the outskirts of Antwerp. These new premises with their pronounced, historical character allow art to be shown in a completely different way.
The castle attracts a host of new clients from all over the world, a success that in turn enables us to further develop our business. Our interior design services are expanded.
This same period sees the launch of the Home Collection, our line of furniture and accessories that are conceived to provide the comfort so often missing in historical pieces.
The thousands of pieces of Late Ming and Transitional Porcelain salvaged by Captain Hatcher from a shipwreck in the South China Sea in 1984 speak to our imagination. Submerged on the sea bed for centuries, the matte glaze of these wares had obtained a distinctive marine patina, reminiscent of modern painting.
The decision to purchase a major part of this collection turns out to be an inspired risk that further establishes our company’s pioneering reputation. Revenues from the sale of most of these pieces allow for the company’s continued expansion, including the purchase of the Castle of ‘s Gravenwezel.
Biennale des Antiquaires, Paris
At this international antiques fair, we wish to break with the lavishly decorated stands that are the norm. We opt to leave the stand bare. Exposing the building’s industrial character allows the fine art and antique objects to resonate freely. The interaction between the different worlds we bring together in the objects we choose is thereby extended to include the space.
The impact of this dialogue brings us such illustrious clients as the John Paul Getty Museum, Rudolf Nureyev, Hubert de Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent.
Vlaeykensgang, a village in the city
The roots of our company lie in the Vlaeykensgang, a medieval passage in the center of Antwerp. Aged 21, our founder buys this secluded street, saving it from demolition. The restoration -lasting several years - uncovers hidden details such as a twelfth century cellar and a wall painting. From here, our trade in arts and antiquities begins.
Axel and May Vervoordt furnish their quarters in harmony with the objects on sale. May also contributes her knowledge of fabrics to the furnishing of these spaces. As a result clients begin to request assistance in creating similar home environments for the items they buy. Our interior design activities are thereby gradually born.
Before long Axel and May Vervoordt are imbuing castles, country houses and town houses all over Europe with the sense of distilled harmony for which our company is known. The revalorization of the Vlaeykensgang embodies the idea of a village in the city, setting the tone for our future real estate projects.