Avid art lovers in Hong Kong would be familiar with Rossi & Rossi by now.
Hot on the heels of the gallery’s 35th anniversary last year, mother-and-son duo Fabio and Anna Maria Rossi have opened a second one on Hollywood Road.
The genesis of the gallery stems from Anna Maria Rossi’s travels to Asia in the early 70s.
Growing up in an artistic circle, she always had an interest in the arts and studied classics at university. She then became a high school teacher in Latin, history and literature.
During the long summer holidays, she traveled to different regions in Asia. It was during these holidays that she discovered Gandharan art in Afghanistan.
Gandharan art takes its name from the region where it originated – Gandhara. One of the regions Alexander the Great conquered in the East, its art combines Buddhist culture from the East and Greek influence from the West.
“The influence is clearly Hellenistic, and so my mother immediately recognized it as she studied the Greek language and art,” said Fabio Rossi.
That was on her first encounter with Gandharan Buddha statues.
The east-meets-west aesthetic was unique and intriguing to Anna, who started collecting and selling the pieces to collectors.
She quit her teaching job to pursue art dealing full time in 1974, which was coincidentally the same trip that brought her son Fabio into the picture.
“In 1974, when I was 11, she decided to take me with her,” said Fabio.
Fabio has fond memories of that first trip.
They first traveled to Kabul by plane from Rome, and spent a week there. “Kabul was a very sophisticated city at the time and was considered the Paris of the region.”
They met a few Italian travelers and joined them in their Volkswagen minivan around Afganistan, visiting spots like the Band-e Amir lakes and the Buddhas of Bamiyan.
“We then went back to Kabul and drove all the way to the Khyber Pass between Afganistan and Pakistan,” he recalled. “We reached the Swat Valley, which later on became one of the Taleban centers but at that time was very peaceful.”
So memorable was the trip that more than four decades later, Fabio can still recite the whole itinerary.
They visited cities like Lahore in Pakistan, Amritsar, Delhi, Jaipur and Jodhpur in India, and Nuristan in Afghanistan.
“My interest in the family business grew out of that experience. Later in life, I moved to London to study at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London, and after graduation, I joined my mother in the gallery she had founded.”
Fabio always knew that he was going to go into the family business.
“For me, joining the family business was an opportunity and it was something that I liked,” he said. “I didn’t feel any obligation and I wasn’t pushed into it. But I felt that this is a great opportunity to make a living and do something I enjoy.”
Always scouting for undiscovered talents, Fabio started dealing with contemporary Asian art with a focus on Tibetan artists in 2005 before slowly expanding to different regions of Asia.
Some of these contemporary works are now shown alongside antique Buddha statues in the new Rossi & Rossi space on Hollywood Road – like in their most recent show Yab Yum.
“I have been fortunate enough to be raised in an environment where there has never been an antithesis between antique and contemporary, Western and Asian,” he said.
The choice of Hollywood Road as their second gallery was perhaps fated. It was one of the places that Fabio visited when he first traveled to Hong Kong in 1975, and Antique Street felt like the perfect fit to display more of the classical side of Rossi & Rossi.
“The DNA and the background of the gallery is really classical, and it has been for a long time,” said Fabio.
“With this new space, we hope to connect with a different audience who may not be so familiar with our history and program.”