Robert Fraser (art dealer)

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Swinging Sixties - London street scene 1966

Robert Fraser (* 13. August 1937 , † 27. January 1986 ) was a British art dealer and in the 1960s a famous pop art - gallery owner of the Swinging Sixties .


Jean Dubuffet 1960
Michael Cooper 1967

Robert Fraser was the son of Lionel Fraser, a wealthy banker whose father worked as a butler for Harry Gordon Selfridge , the founder of the London department store chain Selfridges . Lionel Fraser was highly respected, he was in 1945 by King George VI. awarded a civilian award.

Robert Fraser had two older siblings, Janet, who died in young adulthood, and Nicholas. You grew up in a privileged environment. Her mother, Cynthia, was a believer in Christian Science , a 19th century teaching on spiritual healing. Fraser seems to have been bothered by his parents' puritanical and humorless approach to life.

In the 1930s, Fraser's parents traveled to Paris , where they visited numerous galleries and studied works by modern artists such as Paul Cézanne , Georges Rouault , Chaim Soutine , Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee .

As teenagers, Nicholas and Robert first attended a Christian Science school and later both went to Eton College . Fraser seems to have acquired a certain elitist attitude there, which he still cultivated later, although he actually rejected traditions . In Eton he hated sports and loved art. There he also became aware of his homosexuality .

After graduating from Eton, Fraser traveled to Uganda in 1955 , where he served with the King's African Rifles . In 1958 he moved to the United States , where he spent a few years in New York City and Los Angeles and met important people from the art scene. He befriended artists such as Jim Dine , Dennis Hopper , Ellsworth Kelly and Jack Youngerman . The art historian John Richardson described him at this time as "attractive, rather glamorous, not entirely trustworthy, up-and-coming, very elegant, entertaining, a little mysterious." Soon he was to receive the nickname "Groovy Bob".

After returning to England in 1962 at the age of 25, he opened his first gallery with an exhibition of drawings by the French artist Jean Dubuffet , whose graffiti- inspired pictures impressed the London art scene. Fraser lived in the London borough of Mayfair . His gallery was on Duke Street in neighboring Marylebone near Grosvenor Square . In the following years he presented works by artists such as Richard Lindner , Henri Michaux , Robert Rauschenberg , Cy Twombly , Eduardo Paolozzi , Bruce Conner , Hans Bellmer , Bridget Riley , Horia Damian , Jim Dine and Andy Warhol . These exhibitions were interrupted by parties, escapades and drug orgies. Fraser was frequently drunk or drugged in the 1960s.

In late 1966, Jim Dine's work was banned from exhibiting at Fraser's gallery for public display of obscene material. Along with the exhibition catalogs, the police confiscated 21 of Dine's drawings, some of which showed selected areas of the human body. A court later found the exhibition, but not the confiscated works of art, to be offensive and fined Fraser.

In the spring of 1967 he played a key role as art director in the conception of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - cover of the Beatles . Together with Pop Art artist Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth , he designed the group picture with the Beatles in colorful fantasy uniforms, surrounded by a total of 70 depicted personalities from all over the world. The photographer was Michael Cooper , the arranger was Al Vandenberg . The photo session took place on March 30, 1967 at Michael Cooper 's Chelsea Manor Studios in London .

The name and logo of the Beatles company Apple Corps also go back to Robert Fraser. Paul McCartney became aware of the works of the Belgian surrealist René Magritte in the mid-1960s and commissioned Fraser to get him a work by Magritte. Fraser brought him the picture Le Jeu de Mourre (Eng. The Morra game ), on which an apple is depicted with the inscription Au revoir . This apple later inspired the naming and logo design of the company founded in 1968. Fraser had been on friendly terms with members of the Beatles and Rolling Stones since the mid-1960s .

Fraser was present at Keith Richard's Redlands house in Sussex when, in the late afternoon of February 12, 1967, police carried out a drug raid that led to Dangerous Drugs Act charges against Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Fraser himself. The photographer Michael Cooper, the antique dealer Christopher Gibbs and Jagger's girlfriend at the time Marianne Faithfull were also present at the raid. George Harrison had left the house with his girlfriend Pattie Boyd before the police arrived . In June 1969 Jagger were sentenced to three months and Fraser to six months in prison for drug possession. Richards received a one-year sentence for condoning drug use in his home. Jagger and Richards' sentences were overturned on appeal in August. Fraser, on the other hand, spent the entire six months in prison.

After Fraser had not paid in 1968 some of his creditors, his gallery came briefly under receivership . During this time, his gallery presented works by Clive Barker , Patrick Caulfield and, under the slogan You Are Here, the first joint show by John Lennon and Yoko Ono . The then still unknown performance artists Gilbert & George had one of their first appearances at Fraser. The last exhibitions in his gallery with works by Peter Blake and American pop art artists, including Jann Haworth , took place in mid-1969.

Frazer became interested in tantric teaching and art. He left England and spent the early 1970s in India , then turned back to the art trade a few years later and stayed in New York. In 1983 he reopened a London gallery on Cork Street in Mayfair with a show by Brian Clarke . Exhibitions by young New York artists such as Keith Haring , Jean-Michel Basquiat and Donald Baechler followed .

Logo from Fraser's Gallery on Cork Street 1985
Keith Haring 1986

Fraser was also very addicted to drugs and sex in the 1980s. In 1985 he was diagnosed with AIDS . A year later he succumbed to the disease. In 2015, Pace London, a subsidiary of New York's Pace Gallery , paid tribute to Robert Fraser in the exhibition A Strong, Sweet Smell of Incense .


  • Robert Fraser (Ed.): Richard Lindner. Robert Fraser Gallery, London 1962.
  • Robert Fraser (Ed.): Henri Michaux. Robert Fraser Gallery, London 1963.
  • Robert Fraser (ed.): Eduardo Paolozzi: A Selection of Works From 1963-66. Robert Fraser Gallery, London 1963.
  • Robert Fraser (Ed.): Jim Dine. Recent Paintings. Robert Fraser Gallery, London 1965.
  • Robert Melville: Peter Blake. Robert Fraser Gallery, London 1965.
  • Laurence Alloway: Jean Dubuffet Ustensiles utopiques: Recent paintings. Robert Fraser Gallery, London 1966.
  • Gene Baro: Claes Oldenburg, or the things of this world. Robert Fraser Gallery, London 1966.
  • Robert Fraser (Ed.): Clive Barker: Recent works. Robert Fraser Gallery, London 1968.
  • Robert Fraser (Ed.): Brian Clarke: Paintings. Robert Fraser Gallery, London 1983.
  • Harriet Vyner: Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser. Faber & Faber 2001, Heni Publishing 2016.

Web links

Individual evidence

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