Dealer and Art-World Veteran Fabienne Lévy on What Art Collections Really Reveal About Their Owners

Lévy opened an eponymous gallery in Lausanne in 2019.

Fabienne Lévy. Photography by Catherine Gailloud.

Fabienne Lévy was born to be in the arts. With two parents who encouraged her curiosity, and a mother who especially nurtured her interests, she grew up with the visual delights of art galleries, museums, and art fairs around the worlds. Art does indeed run in the family: her sister is art dealer Dominique Lévy of the newly formed powerhouse consortium LGDR.

Fabienne Lévy opened her own gallery in her hometown of Lausanne in 2019. Each exhibition is wholly taken over by an artist’s work, down to the inaugural show, “Elevation,” which featured Andrea Galvani’s neon sculptures of mathematical equations, arranged to illuminate the space.

Lévy is also invested in the larger cultural environment of Switzerland, working to build a creative economy that values artists at all stages of their careers. In summer 2020, the gallery launched “Space Invasion,” inviting a group of students from local art schools to show their work in a professional setting, introducing them to the business and logistical aspects of the art world, as well as giving them a platform to begin their careers.

As in her gallery program, Lévy’s personal collection reflects a contemporary landscape: the artists she shows and those she collects are similarly interested in making sense of the world around them.

A veteran of the art world, she studied art history at New York University, worked at Christie’s, and ultimately branched out on her own as an art advisor, helping to refine her keen eye for talent. We caught up with her about her art collection.

Andrés Asturias, <i>I was still breathing in sighs</i>. Courtesy of the artist and Fabienne Levy.

Andrés Asturias, I was still breathing in sighs. Courtesy of the artist and Fabienne Lévy.

What was your most recent purchase? 

A group of five photographs by Andrés Asturias, a Guatemalan artist. The works are extremely powerful as they recall the sickness of friends during the pandemic. Each flower has been taken thinking of a friend and staged in relation to this friend as a memory book—very beautiful, and at the same time quite meaningful. I am always attracted by duality in a work.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year? 

I am looking at different artists, but I can’t say in advance who they are because it often depends on the work itself. Buying contemporary art is still something very spontaneous and rarely planned, and even if I go into a fair to look at a specific work, I often end up buying something else.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own? 

I believe it is Liu Ye’s Snow White (2006). I bought it at Sperone Westwater in 2006, and at that time it was a lot of money for me, but at today’s price I wouldn’t be able to buy it.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

I like to buy at smaller art fairs and through galleries. Now that I myself have a gallery, I understand even more the importance of the work done behind the scenes. And I really think that it’s through solo shows that one can immerse the best in the works of the artist.

I have also started looking at artists through Instagram but I have never contacted them to buy directly. To make a show yes, but not to collect.

The interior of Levy's home. Photography by Catherine Gailloud.

The interior of Lévy’s home. Photography by Catherine Gailloud.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom? 

Over the sofa I have a Rebecca Ackroyd work that highlights the fragility and sensuality of a woman’s body. I like the idea of having this work in the living room, standing out as a poetic statement on femininity.

In the bathroom are two works: one by Beatriz Milhazes with an explosion of colors that makes me feel like it’s spring all year round; and a pink metallic sculpture by Anselm Reyle. But since my bathroom is in my bedroom, I can also enjoy Snow White, as well as works from Chen Ke, Keith Haring, and Natalia Gonzalez Martin.

Ceiling lamps by Tobias Rehberger illuminate the dining room, where a piece by Gilbert & George spans the back wall. Photography by Catherine Gailloud.

Ceiling lamps by Tobias Rehberger illuminate the dining room, where a piece by British duo Gilbert & George spans the back wall. Photography by Catherine Gailloud.

What is the most impractical work you own? Why? 

Three lamps by Tobias Rehberger. Any time I need to change the bulb, I need to call someone, uninstall the work, open it with care, and change it. It takes over two hours to do.

In the past, a Tatiana Trouvé work came with a pole of three meters! As it couldn’t fit the way it was, I had to take the concrete pillow out of the pole and placed it in my garden. Till this day, it lives in total symbiosis with the grass and flowers.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

A painting from Urs Fischer from the “Problem Paintings” series. I really regret not buying it when I had the chance. Unfortunately, there will probably be more of those missed opportunities in the future.

Jeff Koons’s tulips sculpture at the Broad. Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

Probably A view from l’Estaque by Paul Cézanne, or Jeff Koons’s Tulips… but I am afraid it’s not the most discreet work to steal!

What does style mean to you? How do you define the relationship between art and style, in your view?

As collections evolves through time, style will do the same. Style is the person you want to share in public and society, while art reflects a deeper side of each of us.

They are related as both are based on visual aesthetics, and both mirror who you are and how a person is constantly changing. They are friends holding each others hands.

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