Founded in 2005 by Sylvain and Dominique Lévy, the DSL Collection constitutes one of the rare Chinese contemporary art collections in France. In truth, Sylvain and Dominique Lévy have been collecting since the past twenty-five years: they were first interested in contemporary European artists and design. In 2005 while they were travelling to Shanghai they had the chance to visit the abstract painter Ding Yi’s studio. This journey plunged themselves into a fervent passion for Chinese art.
This nonstandard couple has dedicated its life to collecting Chinese contemporary art in order to make it accessible to everyone thanks to the use of new technologies (such as virtual exhibition on the Internet or iPad application). Sylvain and Dominique Lévy are aware that a virtual experience cannot replace the direct contact with artworks; hence they also have always been willing to loan their masterpieces to museums and other cultural institutions.
The DSL Collection is now deliberately composed of less than two hundreds artworks, ranging from performance to painting, from video to installation. In addition to these mediums, Sylvain and Dominique Lévy also own some of the biggest names in Chinese contemporary photography, such as Miao Xiaochun, Rongrong, Sheng Qi, Shi Guorui, Wang Qingsong, Yang Yongliang, and Zhang Dali to mention just a few examples.
Mingling the desires to democratize art and to adopt an institutional approach (which shares the same values of conservation, transmission, education, and exhibition), the DSL Collection is a powerful enterprise that constantly renews itself and impacts on a wide international audience. On Tuesday 9 April 2013, shortly after the end of the brand new art fair ART13 London, Sylvain takes the time to answer my questions.
You were members of the Advisory Board for the first ART13 London fair. What were your impressions?
I think this art fair went very well. According to what I have heard a great number of visitors came, and as usual some galleries sold many artworks while other sold less. The most important thing was to prove an art fair can exist without the need to have big names in contemporary art, and to pinpoint that people are looking for something else.
Miao Xiaochun, Rongrong, Sheng Qi, Wang Qingsong among many other notorious names belong to your rich collection. Among the above-mentioned photographers, is there any that you like particularly?
I do not have any preference. What is important is that the artwork speaks for itself, that it conveys the artist’s courage, his/her creative capabilities, and the artwork’s relevance within the whole collection.
In your opinion, does Chinese photography play an important role in the art market?
I think that for now Chinese photography does not have much of an impact on today’s art market.
Do you believe that Chinese contemporary photography is characterized by certain peculiarities?
I do. In the beginning photography in China was used in order to record performances, which were very often imbued with political or social commentaries. Then photography evolved into aesthetic, which in my opinion is less powerful.
A fair number of personalities of the art world told me that Chinese contemporary art still needs time to reach its maturity. What do you think about this viewpoint?
I think it is true. Chinese contemporary art as we define it is less than thirty years old. This is a very complex art that mingles tradition and modernity, cultural specificities and globalisation. Besides, you have to take into account that Chinese contemporary art occurs in a highly difficult socio-political context.
What are DSL Collection’s prospects?
We are currently writing a new publication of the collection. It will highlight not only renown artists but also the young generation. Besides, we will do our utmost to remain as active as possible in social networks.
• DSL Collection
• KOLESNIKOV-JESSOP, S. 2013. “La Collection DSL accessible à tous grâce aux nouvelles technologies.“ Blouin Art Info.
• WHITTAKER. I. 2012. “The Unfinished Collection.“ Iona Whittaker.com