Le Journal Interviews

Looking for the contemporary: An interview with Collector Sylvain Levy

Looking for the contemporary: An interview with Collector Sylvain Levy

Tell me a little bit about the dslcollection. What is its motives?
We have been collecting over the last 30 years but the dslcollection only began 10 years ago. It  focuses on contemporary Chinese art and has no limitations to media. The nature of the collection is to keep developing as the art scene grows. We find it very important that our collection and our habits keep up-to-date and are compatible with the contemporary. We use digital means as a tool of dissemination and source for new works and trends through our own networks. The collection consistently evolves as we sell 15% of it every year. What is key is that we keep it contemporary.

What is the opinion of your collection in the East and what is your understanding of the Chinese reaction?
We are privileged to find ourselves acting as mediators between the East and West. We are French collectors with a love for Chinese art. Therefore we share our perspectives with the East and introduce the West to its art. The Chinese are very appreciative of our efforts and the strength of our collection. I believe we have a mutual respect for one another. Our cultures share certain similarities; French and Chinese cultures are both old, with plenty of traditions and a lengthy history.

You recently published a book titled “dslcollection: A collection of Chinese contemporary art.” This is the third book that has now been published. Can you tell me a little bit more about it and how it came about?
This year is the tenth year of the dslcollection and we found this to be a great way of celebrating its achievements. We worked with curators to complete the book who were chosen because of the working relationship they have with some of our artists, both for international exhibitions and within China. The difference between this book and our previous ones is that over the years the collection has received more recognition and international exposure.

One of the aims of the collection from the very start was to make it accessible to the largest audience possible. We use all means to disseminate it and were the first to make our collection an online museum. The book is simply another way of reaching out to people.

How would you say your methods of dissemination have changed?
A book may be considered more traditional but to put things into perspective, the book sold 1,000 physical copies as opposed to an estimated 9,000 digital downloads. It can be obviously stated that the numbers vary greatly. Our methods need to meet the demand of the public and stay in line with the digital age.

As is applicable with the internet nowadays, information is much more ephemeral in nature and people tend to have shorter concentration spans. Our collection needs to cater to this. Information needs to be visually dynamic to keep our audience engaged. People’s tendencies have changed  and so have their perceptions. Online is where they feel most comfortable. They have digital adaptations of themselves and we have to develop our methods to cater to their comfort zones.  Information needs to be made concise, direct and visually gripping.

Has the book helped identify trends or developments within the collection?
Absolutely, the book has helped to identify visual transitions. It demonstrates how the collection has matured and developed over time while also indicating the practice of contemporary artists. It acts simultaneously as an archive and point of reference. It is a visual record of artists and their artworks.

How do you predict the collection will develop in the future? Has anything in particular caught your attention during your visits to the art fairs?
I was recently at Art Basel in Hong Kong which is always a very interesting place to be – it is where the East and West meet. It is a good platform upon which to see new perspectives and explore new possibilities. But this year, there was no “WOW” factor. Everyone seems to be playing it safe and focusing on sales. There was nothing challenging about it.

In regards to the collection it is very hard to tell. We are constantly on the look-out for new art and constantly looking for new ways of developing. We are looking for the contemporary.