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Putting art on an iPad

THE world's first app for contemporary Chinese art is the creation of collectors Sylvain and Dominique Levy who provide closeups of 160 works by 100 of the most representative artists in painting, sculpture, installation and multimedia art.

Their dsl collection app, launched in March, gives much-needed visibility to emerging artists who advance traditional Chinese aesthetics in a contemporary, global context.

The couple, who live in Paris and visit China every three months, has been collecting Chinese and Western art and design for 25 years. Since 2005 they have focused on China and built a strong, in-depth collection reflecting modern life. It contains many works by the founding fathers of contemporary art such as Wang Keping, Xu Bing and Gu Dexin, as well as very promising artists such as Xu Zhen, Liu Wei and Kan Xuan.

Instead of collecting for personal pleasure, they are building the collection with a museum approach. With the iPad app, the dsl collection is available anytime and anywhere.

The couple was in Shanghai recently to find some new works of contemporary art. Sylvain Levy speaks to Shanghai Daily.

Q: How did you become interested in Chinese contemporary art and what was your first purchase?

A: Six years ago, Dominique and I came to Shanghai and went to Moganshan Road (artists' hub). I was fascinated. We met Lorenz Helbling at his ShanghART Gallery and he showed us many interesting works. Their energy and creativity was very different from Western types of creativity and this made me very curious. Since I was curious about China, I found artwork was a good way to learn about the country. Through collecting contemporary art, we could meet and connect with Chinese artists and understand their ideas. My first purchase was an oil painting by Ding Yi.

Q: What kind of art are you seeking?

A: We have chosen artists rooted in Chinese tradition, yet actively participating in the process of globalization over the past several years. Since we decided to limit the number of our collected works to 160, the collection is expanding with new acquisitions and shrinking by editing others out. It is important to reorganize the collection every year to maintain excellence. We have both established and emerging artists. But we focused more on young, emerging artists and we are constantly building, sculpting the collection to reflect the contemporary arts. Furthermore, we have no particular preponderance of one medium. We want our collection to represent a large variety of media and artists from different provinces to reflect the diversity of art scenes. We do a lot of research and assemble information from different channels.

Q: Why did you create an iPad app?

A: IPad is really the post-PC era device, and for me, the best way to experience art via Internet is on an iPad. A viewer browses through the artworks as if on a journey. With the high definition of the images and the high speed of the Internet, the experience of viewing artwork is more interactive. People can go in depth and it is very convenient. Very soon we will make an iPhone app and a Chinese version for iPad.

The main reason for the dsl collection is to share and educate. Artwork by nature has to be seen. It is sad most private collections were seldom made accessible to the public, and even if donated to a museum, they were rarely exhibited. What a Chinese artist wants is to be visible, not only in China but also in the West. By featuring their works on iPad, we help them reach a wider audience.

Q: What's the feedback?

A: Though the app is very new, people are 100 percent happy with it. One can access never-before-exhibited works and get to know artists' biographies and the introductions and stories of every work. It can be easily shared. My daughter, who speaks Chinese and knows many Chinese artists, will be in charge of the dsl collection in the future.

Q: Are there other projects?

A: We cooperate with Tsinghua University to create a dsl Tsinghuia prize; with this we will sponsor two Chinese multimedia artists in residence overseas.


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