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Artists Name

“We started as a young couple,

going to flea markets and buying

works to decorate our house,

primarily 1940s furniture,”

Dominique says. “Neither of us

came from a family of collectors,

though we had an eye trained for

beautiful things.” Their aesthetic

training was centered largely on

fashion. Dominique’s mother, Rose

Torrente-Mett, founded Torrente, a

French haute couture and ready-

to-wear label, and her uncle, Ted

Lapidus, was a highly influential

designer in the 1960s. Sylvain used

to run French fashion house Caroll

before turning to real estate

development.“ After the first

furniture, we started worrying about

the walls, and I remember the first

painting we ever bought was a

beautiful sunset by Dupuy Godeau,

not the best artist, nor his best

work,” she recalls, laughing.

In the early 1990s, the couple

started buying Western

contemporary art, with works by

Robert Rauschenberg, Manolo

Valdés, and Antoni Tàpies

decorating their home, but they

concede there wasn’t a cohesive

approach to the budding collection

and the works were bought

“more as trophies.”

“We only started to collect seriously

with contemporary designs in the

mid 1990s,” says Dominique.

“We had friends who owned the

Gallery Kreo and at the time,

pieces by Ron Arad and the

Bouroullec brothers were really

accessible. No one wanted them.

That’s when we started to buy, not

just to decorate our house, and we

had to take up storage space. But

when you’re no longer constrained

by space and size, that’s when you

can really have a lot of fun.”

The couple eventually turned away

from design. “It became too hot

and expensive, and you had to be

put on a waiting list to get a piece,

and frankly I prefer to play golf than

have to do that,” explains Sylvain.

Their flat is still a treasure trove of

20th-century design with a range of

interesting pieces, including a 1998

Zenith chair by Marc Newson, a

2001 Grappe carpet by Ronan and

Erwan Bouroullec, and Ron Arad’s

1996 round bookcase and 2001

Pappardelle chair in bronze.

“The flat is very much a reflection of

our life as collectors and our

personal taste, which is very

eclectic,” Dominique says. “This is

not a show flat—the children used

to sit on this Ron Arad chair, and all

the furniture is there to be used.”

Their current passion for

contemporary Chinese art started

in 2005 when the couple visited

Shanghai and met Lorenz Helbling,

founder of ShanghART Gallery, and

also toured artist Ding Yi’s studio.

They quickly started to acquire

works by Zhou Tiehai, Zeng Fanzhi,

and Zhang Huan. They also bought

works by Yang Jiechang and his

wife, Martina Köppel-Yang, after

meeting them in Paris and started

to focus on the young Cantonese

art scene, from the Big Tail

Elephant Working Group to the

Yangjiang Group.

Few collectors have published their

own collecting manifesto, but the

With their thoughtfully researched Chinese contemporary art

collection accessible online and promoted on Facebook,

Sylvain and Dominique Levy redefine collecting for the digital age.

Extracts from article by Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop

(Published in


, Asia Edition, September/October 2013)