A Portable Museum: Interview with Sylvain Levy

By Etienne Verbist - Saturday, March 9, 2019
A Portable Museum: Interview with Sylvain Levy

'The philosophy is to use VR to address some of the main problems in physical displays like museums which are about costs, scalability and revenues. Also, the experience of art is getting worse. The philosophy is to make art universally accessible.'

Image: Sylvain Levy and his wife Dominique


Art Dependence, Etienne Verbist (AD): Who are you and why do you do what you do?

Sylvain Levy (SL): With my wife Dominique we leave in Paris. We have been collecting for 34 years especially design and contemporary art. In 2005 we decided to focus only on Chinese Contemporary Art and to open the collection to the public.


Sylvain Levy and his wife Dominique


AD: What is your goal?

SL: Firstly, is to build a cultural entrepreneurial project mixing a family adventure, a Chinese contemporary art collection and science.

Secondly since we decided to open the collection to the public, it is important to be relevant to our audience and to help the discovery of the Chinese art scene. Thirdly and the most important is to make ourselves a happy life.

AD: Is VR the next mega tech theme?

SL: VR is part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is changing the human being according to Klaus Schwarb President of the Davos Forum. It can become a game changer because it is no more about looking at a screen, but it is about immersion and interactivity.


DSL Collection



AD: What will be the impact of VR?

SL: Convergence of industries:  Entertainment and media, technology and telecommunications (PwC).

Experiences: VR offers new modes of experiencing content that could bring about a more empathetic, informed society (World Economic Forum).

Social consumption: The modern-day audience is no longer just a visitor but also an active participant. Museums started offering not only education, but also entertainment - ‘edutainment’.

Cultural capital: Display artefacts that cannot be presented, either due to lack of space or due to their fragility, but also visualize environments or objects that no longer exist.

Expand audience reach: Enhance museum’s ‘virtual capacity’ providing arts/cultural educational content to a wider public.

Economic value: New avenues for stimulating innovative financing strategies.


DSL Collection


AD: What about the cost of VR?

SL: The hardware and to produce contents are still expensive but cost is going down.

AD: What is your strategy?

SL: The philosophy is to use VR to address some of the main problems in physical displays like museums which are about costs, scalability and revenues. Also, the experience of art is getting worse. VR can also help to reach new type of audience like the old people and the young one. The philosophy is to make art universally accessible.

Stimulate an academic research in the VR field in relation to arts & design, reinforce more productive creative collaborations between students, arts institutions & creative industries.
The Mighty Masters Art Program: equipping schools around the world with VR in collaboration with charity foundations and sponsors.

AD: How do you create value?

SL: Firstly, by having a clear vision and a coherent strategy. The best way to create value is linked with the concept of access.

Access means to be able to collect the best works from the best artists. It means also to be able to reach the most important key players in the art world and the art market.

We also create value also by constantly reinventing ourselves in order not to become obsolete.


Jia Aili Century


AD: What is the future of art?

SL: Today art is about diversity. There are many types of art, with different types of consumers plus it happens in many different types of countries. Each one will have a different future.

AD: About the art market?

SL: Art is like a coin. It has two sides. One is related to the artistic value and the other to the monetary value. A good artist is capable to sustain on the long term these values.

We have decided to focus on the artistic value of artworks

AD: What is your dream project?

SL: The first and the most important one is to make myself and my family happy. The second one is to create a cultural brand that can survive the founders.

AD: What role does the artist have in society?

SL: Artists have the ability to challenge the society and to inspire and delight people.

AD: What memorable responses have you had to your projects?

SL: The most memorable responses are when people tell me that they like what we are doing and that it inspires them.

AD: What do you dislike about the art world?

SL: The art world is very conservative. It is a contradiction to my definition of the word 'contemporary' which is about challenging the status quo.


Wang Du


AD: What role does art funding have?

I am not very familiar with art funding. As for me funding a collection is an elegant way to burn a fortune.

AD: What research do you do?

SL: I am interested by constantly encapsulate the collection with the society and the time in which we are leaving.

For example, you cannot envision a future to a collection without trying to understand the culture behaviour of the millennials. 


AD: What is the role of the people, the crowd in your project?

SL: As we have decided to open the collection to the public, it is important for us to take into account the crowd. What is important is to keep one’s soul and not try to be populist.

It is also important to make contemporary art 'digestible' by using the right medium and the right messages

AD: How can they participate in your project?

SL: Firstly, they participate because we share a lot of information. We also exhibit many works in exhibitions. The best way for me remains when we can physically discuss and exchange with them.

AD: How are you connected with the people or the crowd?

SL: Mainly by being physically present but also by using social  networks.

AD: The crowd economy creates meaningful experiences and shared value, how do you see it for your work?

SL: Naturally the metrics of success are my owns. I am happy when I see that a post on LinkedIn has attracted a lot of viewers and comments.

It is also interesting to read critics about the works that we loaned to exhibitions. 

AD: How do you use the crowd?

SL: I do not use the crowd. I try to inspire them.


Shen Yuan


AD: How do you interact?

SL: If it is on social networks, it is by answering to the posts. Apart of the social networks we are physically omnipresent

AD: How do you handle feedback?

SL: I always read and listen to the feedbacks. But my answer to all of them should always remain a personal one


AD: How do you create and measure the interaction?

SL: I create the interaction by constantly posting articles and participating to the discussions

AD: What are the results and how do you measure them?

SL: I am happy with the results especially the ones reached on LinkedIn. As for measuring - there is an example of metric of success. The number of followers has increased more than 7.000 in a year.



Etienne Verbist is an authority in the field of crowd sourcing, disruptive business modelling and disruptive art. After a well filled career with companies such as GE, Etienne was an early adopter of crowd sourcing. Etienne is manager Europe and Africa for Crowd Sourcing Week, a board advisor to a broad range of companies on innovation and new technology, curator of the Disruptive Art Museum – the smallest museum in the world – and columnist for ArtDependence Magazine.

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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