Dissonance and Disorder: Collecting and Understanding with Sylvain Lévy and Jacobo Garcia Gil

Mak Ying Tung 2, Home Sweet Home: 1,2,3,4 Cheese, 2020, acrylic on canvas, triptych 85 x 150 cm; left panel: 80 x 50 cm, centre and right panels: 85 x 50 cm each. Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe Gallery.
Artist Adriana Oliver and Divide By Zero™ Founder Jacobo Garcia Gil. Image courtesy of Divide By Zero™.
Dominique and Sylvain Lévy. Photo: Stephane Bisseuil. Image courtesy of dslcollection.
Still from the VR Museum of Fine Art. Image courtesy of dslcollection.
Artworks from left to right: Kyne, Untitled, 2019. Image courtesy Divide By Zero™ and Gallery Target; Inkyeong Baek, Yellow Green Qipao, 2019. Image courtesy Divide By Zero™ and Fremin Gallery; Mak Ying Tung 2, Relic (Nokia), 2018. Image courtesy of Divide By Zero™ and de Sarthe Gallery.
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CoBo Social Market News

Expanding on our conversations with collectors Sylvain Lévy and Jacobo Garcia Gil, we discuss collecting as a means of understanding our world, highlighting how personal migratory history and generational differences play a role in collections of today.

 

TEXT: Nicholas Stephens
IMAGES: Courtesy dslcollection and Divide by Zero™

Are collectors modern day explorers setting out from home to discover the truths of their time, capturing perspectives, movements and trends of the new worlds they discover? Amidst disparate voices and dissonant narratives, is an art collection the prism through which collectors make sense of their time, and the places they know by heritage and migratory experience?

“Artists express their point in time and their surroundings,” says Jacobo Garcia Gil, Founder of Divide By Zero™. For him, artists are not only a mirror to their age, but artistic movements may be understood as a consequence of financial and socio-economic events. As an example, he cites the de-pegging of the US dollar from the gold standard in the 1970s as being the catalyst for the exuberance and ostentation of the art world of the 1980s. The crumbling of societal norms that resulted became a platform for street art of the period. Contemporary art is therefore a window into the wider dynamics of our time.

Contemplating art’s relation to its period of creation is a hallmark of Garcia Gil’s approach, and a means for him to understand, frame, and present his collection. His exhibition titles reveal as much—“Shaped by, thirty years within four walls”; “So, Let’s Talk About Millennials”—and he is now preparing his third show, which is about the future of a post-Internet era, posited as when the Internet stops being a utility and starts to govern people’s lives. Technology itself hastens the change in collecting tastes between generations. When he first engaged with virtual reality (VR), Garcia Gil noticed the prevalence of street art displayed through the medium, because “That is what the younger people like to collect, and they are the ones engaged with VR.”

 

Mak Ying Tung 2, Home Sweet Home: 1,2,3,4 Cheese, 2020, acrylic on canvas, triptych 85 x 150 cm; left panel: 80 x 50 cm, centre and right panels: 85 x 50 cm each. Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe Gallery.

 

Artist Adriana Oliver and Divide By Zero™ Founder Jacobo Garcia Gil. Image courtesy of Divide By Zero™.

 

Garcia Gil was born in Colombia, and lived in Peru and Singapore before settling in Hong Kong. Perhaps a sense of restlessness is a precursor to, and sometimes a cause of, the collector’s urge to discover and to understand. Nevertheless, perhaps links between migrating and collecting are not uncommon. Husband and wife Sylvain and Dominique Lévy’s dslcollection is a case in point. The collection began in 2005, when Dominique’s brother moved to China to pursue opportunities in fashion. However, its origins stem from migrations of the previous generation. Dominique has spoken of her sense of “eternal gratitude” to the city of Shanghai, where their art exploration of China began, which was one of the very few places in the world where Jews could migrate without a visa or quota during the tragic persecution of the 1930s and 1940s. The connection to China for the Lévys is an intensely personal migratory story, reflected in their collection.

 

Dominique and Sylvain Lévy. Photo: Stephane Bisseuil. Image courtesy of dslcollection.
Still from the VR Museum of Fine Art. Image courtesy of dslcollection.

 

For Garcia Gil, the link between his collection and his story of migration are clearly visible. He does not exclusively collect Hong Kong art, but his fascination and gratitude to the city is palpable. His interest in Hong Kong-based artists such as Mak Ying Tung 2 and Stephanie Teng stems partly from his belief that intellectual and monetary capital has moved from the West to the East, that Hong Kong is now a creative destination like Berlin was in the 1980s, and his love of the community spirit on the island of Cheung Chau, where he lives. He feels a sense of safety and warmth in his new home, which he contrasts with Colombia as a place where “you get killed for a pair of shoes or a watch.” For Garcia Gil, a love of Hong Kong art is inextricably linked to his personal journey.

 

Artworks from left to right: Kyne, Untitled, 2019. Image courtesy Divide By Zero™ and Gallery Target; Inkyeong Baek, Yellow Green Qipao, 2019. Image courtesy Divide By Zero™ and Fremin Gallery; Mak Ying Tung 2, Relic (Nokia), 2018. Image courtesy of Divide By Zero™ and de Sarthe Gallery.

 

As we speak, the notion of what a journey means has changed. New frontiers can be reached through technology rather than cross border displacement. Our previous discussion with Lévy was about technology, and it is revealing that here too, his understanding of the digital world is partly as a generational shift, one where the younger people “move from ownership to experience”, but also as a journey from one place to another. In his words, “The virtual world is no longer a virtual world, it’s just another world. People move from one to another…and art will be deeply impacted.”

A restless thirst for an understanding of time and place is a key driver for collectors wishing to build a meaningful document of the times they live in. Time and place are moving targets, unstable platforms resistant to a static approach and fixed mindset. Exploring today will always require new collectors to rise to a challenge of describing the world as they see it. Perhaps in so doing, they will ultimately succeed in understanding themselves.

 

 
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