Daniel Levy: “The first requisite is empathy for other people’s culture”
Daniel Levy is the owner and founder of Illustraction Gallery, a premiere online art gallery devoted to selling high-end vintage movie and music posters using e-commerce and social media campaigns. He was previously a senior international marketing and entertainment executive working for Sony Music. Levy’s dynamic career began with his five years as a student at Sciences Po, an experience he believes developed the cultural understanding that has helped him succeed professionally.
Levy describes a longtime attraction to the idea of Sciences Po, because “one of [his] first loves was history.” After completing his Baccalaureate, he was interested in higher education at a university where he could study history among politics, geopolitics, and other subjects. As an undergraduate student in the Economics and Finance program, Levy describes learning from “amazing teachers in marketing who were really fantastic professionals.” This experience instilled his passion and motivation for marketing, which would later become the basis of career.
Levy “was privileged to take the number 63 bus route every day from Trocadero to Sciences Po and to marvel at the beauty of Paris each morning,” he remembers. “Even though we had class very early, even as early as 7:15am,” he adds, “it was a joy every day, traveling through Paris and experiencing the majesty of Paris, which made me appreciate the whole experience from an aesthetic perspective.” After completing his three years of undergraduate education, Levy spent two more years at Sciences Po in the Master of Marketing, where he again learned from “experienced, amazing teachers, mainly coming from the advertising field.” Levy remains friends with many of his fellow students from the program and had the opportunity to pursue internships in a record company, fulfilling his passion for music and desire to work in the music business.
After graduation, Levy’s first job was working for a TV channel programming videos. There, he had the opportunity to meet many representatives from record companies, and as a result he eventually got a job with Sony Music. Levy worked with many international artists at Sony Music, and he believes that his time at Sciences Po experiencing “the sense of history, the internationally-minded teachers, and international teachings,” allowed him to be very at ease in an international environment.
Levy worked for Sony Music for fifteen years, first in Paris, then in the European office in London working as a European marketing director. Again, the cultural understanding he gained at Sciences Po proved invaluable professionally. “If you work in a cultural business or a cultural environment,” he advises, “you have to respect the culture of other countries. The first requisite is empathy for other people’s culture.” Levy next moved to the United States to become a vice president of international marketing. In this role, he worked with countries spanning the globe, including in the Japanese and Australian markets, once again utilizing the international proclivities he developed as a Sciences Po student. “I traveled all around the world living my dreams of working with both large and small artists,” he says. “I also had the opportunity to foster relationships with people from all around the world.”
“Every one of my jobs was my passion, and my passion was my job,” Levy reminisces of his time working in marketing. “So, I decided to leave the music business to pursue other avenues. As an avid collector, especially of posters, Levy decided in 2011 to launch his own poster gallery, specializing mainly in movie posters, concert posters, and advertising posters from around the world. He continued to pursue his passion for international and multicultural pursuits in this second act of his career. “It takes a love of different cultures, an understanding of different cultures, and extensive research and knowledge about the history of each country,” Levy emphasizes. He also conveys the importance of narrative when collecting and selling. “The reason why you would sell a piece of art obviously includes criteria such as the quality, the condition, the provenance, and so forth,” he says, “but the most important thing is that we become storytellers. Where does this piece come from? How is it created? Who is the artist behind it?”
Levy still relies heavily on the skills he developed during his days as a Sciences Po student. “Fifty percent of my time is devoted to research—researching art, researching the actual posters, auction sites, eBay, and private collectors,” he describes. “Sciences Po taught me how to research, taught me how to simplify things, how to go to the essence when you are in front of a massive trove of information and to express it in a very logical manner.” As for his favorite part of his job: “the most enjoyable thing is finding a piece of art and trying to sell it to a buyer in a different country, and again, sharing cultural beauty all around the world.”