Cultured Magazine

Fall 2013

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PASSION PROJECT Two powerhouse dealers—Dominique Lévy and Zesty Meyers—share a rare moment of calm and reflect on their respective art and design markets. PORTRAIT BY FRANÇOIS DISCHINGER With the paint still drying on the walls at her brand new namesake gallery in New York, Dominique Lévy sat with Zesty Meyers to discuss caressing furniture, a vast collection of Swatch watches and sharing the intimate passion of collecting. Zesty Meyers: One of the things that I've always found interesting is how you've integrated some of the designs with art or how you've made the aesthetic choices that seem to work where I'd never be able to put them together in the same way. Dominique Lévy: I grew up with art but I didn't grow up with design. My parents lived with very traditional French 18th century country furniture. I thought it was incredibly beautiful, but I was always intimidated by it...but then my relationship with design changed when I met my friend Didier Krzentowski about 25 years ago. We would go to the flea market together and the first piece I bought was the one that showed me that furniture and sculpture can be the same thing. Meyers: And what was that piece? Lévy: A beautiful long Joe Colombo bar. And it was, I remember to this day, a revelation. I circled around it—caressed it the same way I'd touch a sculpture—and I bought it. And from then I couldn't look at furniture any other way. Suddenly furniture was not just furniture, furniture was objects. Meyers: Do you still own it? Lévy: Yes, of course. Meyers: Never sell the first thing that you buy. Meyers: How did you start collecting art? Lévy: I think I was born with it. But my first collection was clown shoes. Meyers: Clown shoes? Lévy: Yes, because I was a clown in my spare time and so I collected clown shoes. Then I collected Swatches because I'm in Switzerland and when the first Swatch came out, I thought, "A plastic watch—this is the most extraordinary thing!" And today I must have 1,600 Swatches. Of course, my parents were also art collectors. I was going with them to Basel art fairs as a baby and to flea markets. I was looking, but it always seemed like a grown-up world to me. Then, when I was 16 or 17 and had my first job, I bought a Dalí print. It ended up being a fake and I lost, you know, the 800-900 francs that I put 98 CULTURED into it. That was a big lesson for me because I realized then that I wanted to buy artists of my generation. I wanted to meet them and work with them. That's how it all started for me. Meyers: I mean everyone has to make a mistake to figure out what's right. Do you look at yourself as a storyteller to your clients? Lévy: I love storytelling, and I love sharing, but do I see myself as a great storyteller? Well, my father was one. So, no, I don't see myself as a great storyteller, but a storyteller just the same…There is nothing more joyful than being able to share with clients the passion or to guide them—if they allow themselves to be guided—but at the end of the day, it's more about listening to what they're about and being able to speak to that. Sometimes you push a bit, you tickle a bit. Meyers: So what would you say it is that drives you every day? Lévy: I'm doing this out of complete passion and enthusiasm. I absolutely love it. You know, someone was asking me about Basel and I said to him, "I hope you have a great time" or something. He said, "Oh, having a good time at an art fair is an oxymoron." Really? To me, it's an incredibly joyful experience when I get to a fair—setting it up and getting ready for people to come in. I'm not just excited—I'm joyful. So we believe in pleasure in this field. You have to buy for pleasure, even if there are many other reasons. And I try to make it a pleasure for clients, too. I try to make them enjoy the experience, from the moment they buy to the moment it's on their wall. Meyers: You know, someone once told me, or many people told me, that it used to be a luxury to be an art dealer. Lévy: To me, it's an honor, a pleasure, a privilege—we are so lucky. We meet such fascinating people, even if their daily lives may not be that fascinating because, who knows, they may have the most boring job in history. But what they share with you is your passion—it's their passion, too. You suddenly enter in an intimate area of people's lives—it's extraordinary. I mean, to this day, I still look at my Greta Magnusson Grossman Cobra lamp that I bought from you with awe. It's been, what, 15 years? Meyers: Yeah it's been a long time. Lévy: I look at it and it never stops marveling me. Meyers: It always starts with the feeling, right? Lévy: Completely.

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