Interview with Dominique & Sylvain Levy
DSLCollection – Paris, France
How important is having the title of “collector” to you?
We have been collecting together for more then thirty-four years. During this time, we went from the notion of an “l’amateur d’art” to a new model that I shall call the “entrepreneurial collector”.
Today our collection is a project that bridges family adventure in the sense of “l’amateur d’art” a collection of Chinese contemporary art, and science, especially with the use of digital tools to create new spaces and experiences for people to connect with art.
For the future we have already put the collection in the context of the Fourth Industrial revolution by joining programs related to virtual realty, Blockchain and 3D printing.
Does your collection follow a specific theme or particular artists?
We have decided to focus on Chinese contemporary art. Why Chinese contemporary art? Since 1980 China is experiencing the biggest transformation that any other country has experienced in the history of mankind. As art can be seen as the mirror of a society, we wanted to find in Chinese contemporary art the energy that you feel when you are in China, as well as its 5 000 years of culture.
We do not follow particular artists but follow certain rules and we collect all types of mediums. We have to be challenged by the work
Do you have a personal relationship with the artists you collect?
Sure. We know almost 170 out of the 200 artists that are featured in the collection. We believe that behind an artwork there is the artist, and to better know this person gives the artwork a larger dimension and helps to create an emotional esthetic.
Is there an artwork that you love but can’t live with due to size, medium, or value?
Almost all of our works cannot fit in our apartment. It is a deliberate choice to create a type of collection that also gives priority to the public.
In your opinion, what mistakes do young collectors make? And what mistakes did you make when first starting on your collecting journey?
I think that I have made three mistakes in the beginning:
The first one was not defining clearly what type of collection I wanted to create. You can collect to decorate your home or for investment or to fill a museum. All types of collection are relevant but you must choose one and be persistent with it.
The second mistake is about only buying what you like. By essence, contemporary art is about art that changes its time, and that is why it is important to collect works that challenge you, that are against your personal taste.
The third mistake was to sell to quickly.
As for “ the mistakes” of the young collectors, I think it is about being in a hurry to build a collection and to remain in a comfort zone within the type of works that they collect. Collecting can make an ordinary person have an extraordinary life, but that’s only possible If you are persistent and not afraid of any kind of failures.
What has the reaction been like from visitors of your collection since making it publicly accessible? Does this reaction impact you and what you collect?
In the beginning, people from the art world were not convinced by the relevance of showing a collection with digital tools. We had to be persistent and to disseminate the message that the digital world was creating new experiences and spaces to connect people with art. We’ve always focused on the importance of the content and that it should create aesthetic emotions.
How has the attitude to collecting changed since you began?
In the thirty-four years that we’ve been collecting the art world has changed a lot and the way a collection is built is now different. We’re still in the spirit of “l’amateur d’art”, which means taking the time to build and enjoy the collection.
Which publicly accessible private collection would you recommend visiting?
Without any doubt it would have to be the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art.