Kanye in conversation with Axel Vervoordt

A seemingly unlikely but striking dialogue...


Earlier this week Kanye West, of all people, interviewed his interior designer Axel Vervoordt for The Hollywood Reporter. You can read the interview in full here, but I thought I would share some of my favourite moments from a dialogue between between two visionaries I sincerely admire.

KANYE WEST ...People will want to know how we met. I remember I walked past your booth [at The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, Netherlands, in 2013] and saw this coffee table. It was a very low, dark coffee table with round edges, and it looked like it was floating, like a spaceship... It had this very soulful, emotional feeling to the space. I came up to you and said, "Who is responsible for this?" 

AXEL VERVOORDT It was an immediate connection. I could feel that you were really in love with things. Even if people think we come out of two different worlds, the act of meeting makes one another stronger. You were so spontaneous, totally true and intense. Now we're working on a house together, and I've learned from you because you have great taste. We talk about things, we change things. That's what I like so much about you — I'm the same way — you've never arrived, you never are the best and you always want to do your best. You always want to learn and serve people.

WEST Mmm-hmm. You are self-educated about art, design and interiors. Can you say where your instincts come from?

VERVOORDT From childhood. We had horses, and my father would bring field flowers from the horse meadows, and my mother loved that more than the red roses from the shop. She taught me to appreciate humble things.

WEST That's beautiful. This is kind of a little secret weapon that I've had on the world: I've actually got a Ph.D. from the Art Institute of Chicago. (Laughs.) I went to college on an art scholarship at the American Academy of Art, but the education comes from being passionate about objects, spaces, colors and the way they affect your senses. Sometimes you get educated by being really bothered by things and you have to educate yourself on how to respond. If you're bothered in a non-spiritual space, Axel Vervoordt is responding with a nuke weapon!

VERVOORDT Yes, you learn also from the ugliness because you either want to make it better or try to accept it. There is no beauty without ugliness. Art made me look at things differently. It opened my mind. I went on my own to England when I was 14 to buy antiques, and then I sold to my parents' friends. I went to big, beautiful houses, and they had the most amazing art and furniture with Wellington boots out front. They lived in a casual way with beautiful things. In France and other countries, people had expensive things, but you couldn't touch them. It was only to show riches, and I never liked that. I like things that are close to you that give you spirit.

VERVOORDT I need to be focused on work, you know? It's restarting every day. You want to be part of the flow without ego. The freer you are, the more creative you will be. Ego is limiting.

WEST I fight with that every day.

VERVOORDT We all do. I do as well.

WEST I do believe that all time is now. The future is here now, the past is here now. There's certain people that you meet and you say, "Oh, you're from the future." You feel this in their spirit, people who are just staying in a time where the time doesn't celebrate who they are, and there's other people right now who the time does celebrate, and those people end up more famous or notorious. But I'm big on connecting with timeless energy, with people and musicians that I'm around. When working on "Runaway" [video] with [artist] Vanessa Beecroft, it was very important to not define the time, to not give any labels to the environments that we were in.

VERVOORDT Very nicely said. It's totally exactly that attitude for myself. In every moment in the future, the past is present. It's why you need to be connected to this big power without your ego, without the limits of your ego. You feel the timeless, which is totally beyond fashion. It has nothing to do with fashion. I think everything you like, you do, you create, is beyond fashion. It's not like with people, the mentality, "This is for this season, for next season" — it's nothing to do. You like to create things that they are just there and they are timeless. I'm sure there are other creators who think fast fashion, who think this season, next season. I'm sure you never think like that, I never think like that.

VERVOORDT In every loss there is something you gain, and in everything you gain there is something you lose. But some people will always look at the thing that doesn't work as a sign of destruction. We have to accept it like a samurai. Then nothing can hurt you. Acceptance is a learning process.

Image: The drawing room of the Tribeca penthouse. Courtesy of Nikolas Koenig.