Lévy says she loves these dinners at home, where she can entertain and be with the kids, though Berwin is the more social of the two. “I’m always introducing people,” Berwin says. “It’s just something I like to do.” Among their core group are Barneys CEO Mark Lee, Whitney curator Chrissie Iles, artist Roni Horn, French curator Caroline Bourgeois, London dealer Maureen Paley, and art-collecting couples like Adam Lindemann and Amalia Dayan and Richard and Lisa Perry. “I like mixing people who are honest about their lives,” Berwin says. “Not that American sort of thing where you pretend that everything is perfect. There’s no such thing as perfect.”
If there are chinks in the Berwin-Lévy armor, generally they don’t show, even if Berwin worries about appearing “overprivileged and bratty.” Their lives are organized with the help of a support staff, and when Lévy wants to buy an artwork that Berwin doesn’t, “I don’t tell her,” Lévy says.
However, Lévy did let her partner know that she was purchasing a former bank building on Madison Avenue, breaking away from L&M Arts to establish the Dominique Lévy Gallery, which will open next spring. “It’s an adventure,” Lévy says, clearly exhilarated by the idea. “I think nothing is more enriching and stimulating than spending an hour or two with an artist. Buying a work and living with it is like oxygen in my lungs.” At the new gallery, she will alternate the historical exhibitions of 20th-century art that she orchestrates so expertly at L&M with equally focused contemporary shows by living artists. She will also remain partners with Mnuchin in L&M’s two-year-old branch in Venice, California, a converted one-story power station Lévy opened after realizing that artists like Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and Robert Irwin had no West Coast representation.
Levy’s passion for art was first stoked in 1970, when she was just 3 and her mother, a Belgian-born collector, took her to Art Basel in Switzerland. She hasn’t missed one since. At 21, she organized an exhibition with young artists in a borrowed 18th-century manor outside Lausanne. After a brief stint in acting (her first job was as a clown at parties), she studied art history and sociology in Paris. Then she went to New York for an internship at Christie’s, which she followed up with a gig at Sotheby’s in Geneva working for the auctioneer Simon de Pury. “My father was very clear,” Lévy says. “If I wasn’t willing to take on his business, I had to make it on my own.”
She had the genes for it. Andre Lévy was a cotton merchant who left Cairo in 1958, during the exodus of the Jews from Egypt that followed the belligerent Gamal Abdel Nasser’s election to president. After joining family members in Lausanne, Lévy became a very successful currency trader. But prosperity did not leave him kindly disposed to her career choices.