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dynamic French couple has.

They’ve also embraced 21st-

century technologies—not only to

digitize their collection of about

200 artworks to make them

available to all on the Internet, but

also to create iPad apps and reach

out via social networks like

Facebook with pages in English and

Spanish. That’s not to say they’ve

eschewed traditional media; they’ve

published books in English, Spanish,

and Chinese.

Philip Tinari, director of the Ullens

Center for Contemporary Art in

Beijing, notes that the DSL

Collection has been a “very public

advocate for the field in general,

as well as a pioneer in trying to

apply the Internet and social media

to the running and promotion of a

private collection.”

“They have collected some of the

most important figures of the

Chinese avant-garde over the last

three decades and have been

generous lenders to exhibitions

around the world, including at

UCCA,” he says, noting that the

collection is rooted in the “same

basic understanding of

contemporary art history as other

major collections,” including those

of Uli Sigg and Guan Yi. “While it is

smaller than these other

collections, DSL manages to feel

alive rather than archival in its

selection of particular works.”

Sylvain points out that over the

years the couple has had different

approaches. “Previously, it was a

more traditional approach to

collecting with no real coherence:

we would buy an object because

we liked it,” he explains.

“But when we started our

collection on contemporary

Chinese art we deliberately decided

to do things differently because

from the start we knew we wanted

to open the collection to the

general public using the Internet

and social media.”

For the Levys, it was extremely

important that their collection had,

as Dominique puts it, “a soul, as

well as an image,” which they

thought could only be created by

following rules such as keeping the

collection relatively small and within

certain limits.

“It must be niche to give your

collection a clear image,” Sylvain

adds. “We wanted to work on big

formats because Chinese artists

have always liked to express

themselves via those.... The

difficulty when you start collecting

is to have access to quality, and if

you focus on big formats, there are

very few people in that sphere, and

you can have some beautiful

pieces. Of course we can’t have

them in our living room, but the day

we decided to have a museum-like

collection, we had gone beyond

buying art to decorate our walls.”

“By limiting ourselves, we know we

have to be much more careful in

our selection, take the time to

research and select each artwork,”

says Dominique. “Early on we

also decided that if we’d made a

mistake we would be able to let

go of the work. There are a lot of

collectors that are in an

accumulation phase, especially

with Chinese art, because they

want to open big museums.

Our approach is very different.”

The Levys believe that a collection

should be first and foremost a

private story, “our own story as

collectors, as well as the meetings

with different people,” Sylvain says.

“Each of the artworks is a bit like

the words that help us write a

story, our story,” he adds. “Some

are stronger than others. The idea

is to create something that has a

real soul. We can collect works by

artists completely unknown, but

these represent, for us, something

very interesting in the story we’re

telling.” The result is a highly

personal, scrupulously crafted

collection—though the Levys joke

that despite similar tastes, curating

doesn’t always come easy. “That’s

the interest of this adventure; it has

taught us to compromise, which is

a very good thing for a couple,”

Sylvain quips. “I guess I am the

adventurous madman and she is

the reason.”