Axel Vervoordt Has Converted a Malting Distillery Into a World-Class Art Center in Antwerp

The site will house permanent installations by Anish Kapoor, Tatsuo Miyajima, Marina Abramović, and James Turrell.

Kanaal. Photo: ©Jan Liégeois, courtesy Axel Vervoordt Company.

The Belgian art collector Axel Vervoordt is unveiling his new cultural and residential complex in Antwerp this Thursday. The 55,000-square-meter space will house the new headquarters of the Axel Vervoordt Company, as well as 4,000 square feet dedicated to he and his wife May’s art collection, including permanent installations by Anish Kapoor, Tatsuo Miyajima, Marina Abramović, and James Turrell.

Dubbed Kanaal for its location on the banks of the Albert canal, the industrial site was originally built in 1857 and has been undergoing renovation since 2011 by Vervoordt r.e., the development company managed by Axel’s son Dick Vervoordt, in collaboration with Belgian architects Stéphane Beel, Coussée & Goris and Bogdan & Van Broeck, and the French landscape designer Michel Desvigne.

The plans for Kanaal were inspired by Kapoor’s monumental red dome, At the Edge of the World (1998). The work was installed at the site in 2000 and serves as what the owners call its “symbolic beating heart.” Elsewhere on the property, an original 19th-century chapel has been restored to house an installation of Turrell’s light work Red Shift (1995).

The red brick warehouses and grain-storage silos of the former malting distillery will house the Vervoordts’ personal collection, which they’ve built over five decades, as well as temporary exhibitions from the Axel Vervoordt Gallery. The gallery, which was founded by son Boris Vervoordt in 2011 to specialize in the work of ZERO, Dansaekhwa, and Gutai artists, moved into the new space from in March of this year. It opened with a retrospective of Kazuo Shiraga, followed by new works by Ghanian artist El Anatsui, which will remain on view until January 13, 2018.

Image courtesy the Axel Vervoordt Company.

On Thursday, the Terrace Gallery and Escher Gallery—two of Axel Vervoordt Gallery’s three spaces in the complex—will open with shows of Gutai artist Saburo Murakami and young Belgian Lucia Bru. The new naturally lit exhibition spaces were designed by Axel Vervoordt himself, in collaboration with the architect Tatsuro Miki.

Building for Anish Kapoor’s At the Edge of the World. Photo: ©Laziz Hamani, courtesy Axel Vervoordt Company.


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