University of Melbourne Magazine

The gallery owner: Rebecca Hossack

  • Alumna and gallery owner Rebecca Hossack.

    Alumna and gallery owner Rebecca Hossack.

    Every day is different in the life of Rebecca Hossack. Today is no exception.

    She’s just celebrated 26 years of the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery in London, partying late into the night with a variety of guests including the singer Adele, and later she’s catching a plane to Hong Kong and then on to the US.

    Clients are eager to get hold of her, staff at her London and New York galleries are demanding attention, and artists have been emailing her since six in the morning.

    Somehow she squeezes me in to this ridiculous schedule and confesses she’s just run around Regents Park in a bid to retain her sanity.

    “But I love it,” she says. “Nothing could be better than meeting fantastic people and talking about beautiful art.”

    Hossack (LLB, BA 1978) is charming, expansive and passionate. With 30 artists on her books, she needs to be all this and more.

    “I feel like I have 30 children to look after,” she laughs, “but I love them all and I’m very proud of them. When they produce wonderful things it’s really rewarding, and it’s great when someone responds to those wonderful things and buys them. To see them flourish is the most satisfying thing for me.”

    Hossack left the University of Melbourne with a law degree and a BA in art history. In the end, her penchant for beautiful things won over, and she opened her first gallery in 1988.

    Back then, the Rebecca Hossack Gallery was the first to show Aboriginal work outside Australia. Indigenous art is still a huge part of what she does, but finding it is no easy thing.

    Despite being widely copied since pioneering Indigenous art, Hossack’s gallery is the only one left in her area of central London. She puts her success down to pure hard work – and copious amounts of intuition.

    “I go for an artist who’s disciplined and who’s made their work using fine quality materials. I want total originality and go out on a limb to find people who are following the beat of their own drum.”

    And she insists on finding them all herself.

    “I work with unconventional people. No one can understand why an artist may be making a monkey out of old textiles,” she says. “How can I delegate that? To get artists to perform their best you have to give so much. The nurturing goes on for years, like a marriage.”

    Hossack visits the artists in remote parts of Australia and spends time with them. Then they’re invited back to London in the summer.

    A visiting group once asked her to show them “where the trouble started”.

    “They wanted me to take them to Whitby to see Captain Cook’s house,” she explains.

    “It’s a long way, by train then mini-bus, to visit this tiny little house – they looked at his hammock and his chair and then said – ‘Hmm, now we understand’. I found that fascinating. That’s my happiest time, every summer when they come.”


    – Lorenza Bacino