Interview with Rossi & Rossi Director Fabio Rossi

Fabio Rossi studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and joined his mother as co-director of Rossi & Rossi in 1988. The original gallery was founded by Anna Maria Rossi in 1985 in London and has continued to promote Asian art in the UK. Together, mother and son have established a reputation as leading dealers in traditional Indian and Himalayan art, early Chinese and Central Asian textiles and works as well as contemporary Asian art, particularly Tibetan. Aesthetica speaks to Fabio about the connection between classical and contemporary art and the current exhibition in London, In-Between .

A: What is it in an artist’s work that will draw you to want to work with them?
FR: Even though the initial visual impact of the aesthetics will always be important, what I am most interested in is the story that each artist has to tell.

A: You are currently exhibiting a selection of Tibetan art at Rossi & Rossi, how did you end up doing this project?
FR: I have been working with Tibetan contemporary artists since 2005 and was always interested in their relationship with their traditions, which is unlike the relationship in any other area. For In-Between we wanted to highlight this continuity between contemporary and traditional art and commissioned Tibetan artist Tenzing Rigdol to curate the show inviting a group of 16 Tibetan artists to create works in response to a wonderful group of 12-15th century manuscript covers. Audiences have been thrilled by the result, in fact all the contemporary works, along with a small group of the book covers, have been sold to a single collector who wanted to keep the pieces together.

A: Presenting classical and contemporary art together is very important for your gallery, do you think they feed off one another?
FR: Yes, I think there is a constant dialogue; I don’t see a dichotomy but instead continuity. Our focus is on Asian art and perhaps in that region the wholesale reaction against and dismissal of tradition is less pronounced than in contemporary western art.

A: You primarily work with Asian art, are there any emerging artists from that area that we should look out for?
FR: I would not necessarily suggest one should look out for any particular artist as such, but we are involved in checking out regions where there are emerging contemporary art scenes and work with some of those artists. For instance in Central Asia there is Erbossyn Meldibekov, an extremely interesting conceptual artist who, after a critically acclaimed showing at Art Hong Kong in 2012, has been included in several international biennales. In South-East Asia, there is Leang Seckon and Heman Chong, and in Pakistan, Naiza H Khan, who is a recent recipient of a Prince Claus Award. And, of course, there is Tibet!

A: Your Mother founded the gallery in 1985 and has been working in the scene for nearly 40 years – did this make an impact on you growing up? Did you always want to work in art?
FR: Her impact can’t be quantified, she is definitely the reason I became involved in art: my first desire to do so was when I was 12 or 13 and it has not stopped since. When I was growing up my mother would take me to Asia, to remote regions, and as a young child, of course, this appeared quite normal to me. Only as I became an adult did I come to realise what an astonishing upbringing I had had, full of “privileges” that didn’t seem to be privileges, for example, exposure to cultures, to cities, temples and works of art that few had the chance to see before the mass tourism of recent years.

A: What do you have planned for the future of the gallery.
FR: To continue to promote emerging contemporary artists from parts of Asia which are less well-know and explored. The majority of our exhibitions have brought to London, the UK and/or Europe artists who have never shown here before. At the beginning of this year we opened a big space in Hong Kong – where I am now located – and this acts as a complement to the gallery in London, allowing us to have a larger programme. By the middle of next year we hope to have moved to a new London space and I am sure this will invigorate us, allowing us to expand on our exhibition schedule. We are doing a lot of continuation and renewal, so it’s all very exciting!

In-Between until 28 November at Rossi & Rossi, 16 Clifford Street, London, W1S 3RG.

1.In-Between installation shot courtesy of Rossi & Rossi.