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Dsl collection - chasing the future

The DSL collection was created in 2005 by Sylvain and Dominique Levy. Today Karen Levy is also actively helping to build the collection.

The collection focuses on contemporary Chinese art. Even though limiting itself to a certain number of objects – not more than 350 – the collection comprises major works of the 200 contemporary Chinese artist.

DSL collection distinguishes itself from other collections of contemporary Chinese art through a strict collecting concept. The collectors believe that » The 21st century collector must think beyond established boundaries. » Therefore, dslcollection not only actively promotes the discovery and study of Chinese contemporary artistic production and but also makes use of the latest technologies. Tools such as the internet, interactive programs, virtual exhibitions and electronic books help dslcollection to achieve greater visibility and provide the means to share the experience of contemporary culture. Openness, the nomadic and sharing are core concepts of the DSL collection.



Chasing the future

The history of China is filled with epochal changes compressed into shockingly brief timelines. The country’s relationship to contemporary art is a case in point. In an interview with Ashton Chandler for the website, Art:I:Curate, the co-founder of the DSL Collection, Sylvain Levy, remarks that “Chinese contemporary art began in 1980”. Rather like Philip Larkin’s reflection on the charmed year of 1963 in British culture, the year 1980 in China appears to be regarded as a year in which a new way of viewing the world crystallized for a generation of Chinese artists. Levy has dedicated the ensuing decades to chronicling and exhibiting works that have emerged from this original period through to the present. He and his wife, Dominique, administer one of the most diverse and forward-looking private collections of contemporary Chinese art in Europe. The DSL Collection is, in many ways, as unique as the works that comprise it. What makes the DSL Collection remarkable is that not only it engages the robust diversity of Chinese contemporary art, but also how fully its founders embrace the centrality of circulation and fluidity in making their collection available to audiences throughout the world. This is in part due to the Levys’ integration of digital culture into the distribution and display of the works they collect.


Levy has spoken, in an interview with Lara Sedbon, of the importance of reaching what he calls the “new eyes”, the generation born into the aesthetics of digital imagery, whose brains are “moulded by moving images” and whose “eyes are shaped by saturated colors”. In order to reach these new eyes, and the eyes of older generations curious about or fascinated with contemporary Chinese visual culture, the Levys have overseen the creation of a digital museum to house the works of the hundreds of artists who feature in the collection. To visit the online space is a dizzying experience. The gallery consists of digitally rendered concrete walls along a seemingly infinite plain. The walls look like something between a bunker and a maze built on a stretch of chalky, white ground. The walls rise beneath a sky that is bright but clouded, rather like an unpredictable day by the sea on the British coast. The works on show in the temporary exhibition include a piece by Hipic, a collective of artists exploring the ways images are collected, branded and distributed using digital technologies. Their work in the current exhibition features a grainy image of three running men. Their embodiment has a precariousness that contrasts starkly with the wall on which the work “hangs”; it’s stolidity only highlights the image’s ephemerality. Also currently showing is a piece by Huang Yong Ping entitled, Un immigrant sans papiers, an installation integrating elements of sculpture and taxidermy which explores boundaries that are both physical, and conceptual. The collection is expansive, but, like the country from which its works derive, it is always changing and being redefined. The Levy’s frequently rotate works into and out of the collection, a collection that has included more than 200 artists since its inception in 2005. Speaking to Artsy, Levy stressed “relevance” as a key consideration in the composition of the collection, but he has also been at pains to stress the diversity of the culture of contemporary China and the need for artistic projects like the DSL Collection to reflect this. Currently, the collection includes superstars like Cao Fei whose searing, absurd Rabid Dogs (2002)—among three of her video works in the DSL Collection—expresses the contradictions and vibrancy of contemporary China with a lurid elegance, as well as younger figures like the young curator and artist, Hu Weiyi. Despite being somewhat older than other collection incumbents, the legendary veteran of provocative Chinese art, Tang Song also features. Though no single artist or collection could truly encompass the totality of contemporary Chinese art, in its depth, and its dedication to constantly renewing itself, the DSL Collection, more than many others at least offers a more detailed glimpse of a country whose culture is increasingly influencing global artistic trends. In one sense, the openness and accessibility of the DSL Collection’s virtual museum illustrates one of the most salient truths of contemporary art: if one opens one’s eyes, China is everywhere.

“Art needs an audience and the internet allows to reach it everywhere,
every when and also everybody”

– Sylvain Levy


DSL collection


Ge Guanzhong (b. 1977) received his MFA from Beijingʼs Xu Beihong Art College of Renmin University in 2008. Brought up in an artistic family and meticulously trained as a traditional ink painter, he has gradually shifted his style and subject matter to reflect the massive changes in modern Chinese society. His graphic compositions and aggressive use of vivid colors distort classical subjects and contribute to the rapid evolution of contemporary ink painting. Of recent note, Premier Wen Jiabao selected a painting by Ge Guanzhong as a national gift for the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008.



Statement of Jia Aili for the works in Guangzhou Triennial 2008.

« The word “Personality” comes from the Latin word “Persona”, which originally means the mask that actors/actresses wear when they play their roles on stage.

They deliver (sonare) their lines through (per) their mask. The mask is an emblem of the role in the play. Hidden behind the mask are the actors/actresses who are independent of the characters they act. We mistakely think that the roles that we play are our true selves. Confused by our current scenario, we cannot see our previous or future roles.

I am unsure whether my works are related to the Triennial’s theme “Farewell to Post-colonialism”. What I can say is that my works seek to explore reality and the symbolic order of the world. »



Since 2000, Chen has moved away from his figurative works of the 1990s to landscape pictures and objects of everyday urban life. In sharp contrast to elaborate architectural masterpieces, Chen has chosen to depict prac- tical, anonymous structures such as passages, tunnels and bridges. In this painting, Chen depicts a thoroughfare from the highway to the airport, which passes through Siyuanqiao, an area notorious for its countless ga- rages and counterfeit spare parts stores. Chen’s typical smooth technique, the absence of brush marks and cool atmosphere reflect the facelessness of new urbanism in China. It represents a comment on the artificiality and anonymity of the metropolis and forced modernism. The unnatural reflec- tions of light hint at the artificiality all around us. The monochromatic pa- lette across a vast canvas leaves the viewer with a strong sense of des- pondency and isolation.

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