In Washington he became the publisher of a newsletter founded by John Naisbitt, author of the corporate bestseller “Megatrends,” about socioeconomic and political dynamics. In 1994 Daniel co-founded Georgetown Publishing House, specializing in direct-mail publications for executives. The company was sold in 2000, and four years later he created MiCash, an Internet company that issues prepaid, reloadable debit cards.
Curating the collection
Daniel had collected posters and pictures in his early 20s, but his taste gradually evolved. “Now I buy things that are more cerebral,” he says, “more conceptual and things with less color. You are never going to see me buying a painting with a lot of colors in it. I like things that are more peaceful, I guess.
“I like a work that first makes you smile, then after that makes you think.”
A photograph in the Levinases’ dining room looks like a drawing of a 19th-century painting by the French master Géricault. It’s actually a photo by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz of his own sketch of the painting — made using chocolate syrup. Muniz has gone on to fame and fortune, but he’s one reason a profile in a Brazilian magazine dubbed the Levinas collection “Latin Good Humor.”
Mirella says she and her husband have similar taste, “but Dani’s more edgy than I am, and more passionate. I like objects even more than I do painting,” she says. “I like to interact with smaller things. You can touch them, place them, make a decoration on a table for a dinner. When you have big things, it’s a different story.”
The Levinases bought their house seven years ago, demolished the interior and in collaboration with Daniel’s brother Salo Levinas, a Bethesda architect, created an ideal showcase. (Mirella says her main contribution was the serene, park-like sculpture garden.)
“This is my dream house,” says Daniel, noting that the property, which affords views of the Potomac from the bedroom on the expanded third floor, once belonged to Evalyn Walsh McLean, the last private owner of the Hope Diamond.
“There’s a balance between the quality of the architecture in his home and the quality of the work,” Koshalek says of the multi-level, open-plan design.
When the Hirshhorn mounted a retrospective of Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca last year, the Levinases hosted the opening party. They chaired a benefit for the not-for-profit Transformer gallery at the Mexican Cultural Institute. Daniel has curated projects at the Organization of American States and the Arlington Arts Center. And he is active in Miami, where the couple maintain an apartment, serving on the welcoming committee for Art Basel Miami Beach, the largest contemporary art fair in the United States.
A question every collector faces is what will become of their holdings when they are gone. Daniel says he’s too young to dwell on such matters. Instead he has been devoting thought to establishing a new venue to add space for cutting-edge art in the capital.
“The museums and institutions are fantastic, but there is not a lot of contemporary art in Washington’s museum world, and there is not enough of a market to support galleries. It’s a pity,” he says. “There is no question that there is something missing.
“I would like to see a big space where you can do temporary shows of art that is normally not shown in the big museums, a place to be able to show really the latest stuff. We need to get young people involved when they are in high school,” he says. “There are some that will never go to a museum. But if you show something that is closer to what they do every day — video, electronic installations, music — they will go. I would like to see a line of people around the block trying to get in.”