Robert Fraser (1937–1986) was a noted London art
dealer of the 1960s and beyond. He was a pivotal figure in the London cultural scene of the mid to late sixties, and was close to members of The Beatles
and The Rolling Stones
Fraser was educated at Eton
and spent several years in Africa
in the 1950s as an officer of The King's African Rifles.
After a period spent working in galleries
in the United States
, he returned to England
and with the help of his father (a wealthy financier
who had also been a trustee of the Tate Gallery
) in 1962 he established the Robert Fraser Gallery in Duke St, Grosvenor Square, London. The gallery interior was designed by Cedric Price
. It became a focal point for modern art in Britain, and through his exhibitions he helped to launch and promote the work of many important new British and American artists including Peter Blake
, Bridget Riley
, Richard Hamilton
, Gilbert and George
, Harold Cohen
, Eduardo Paolozzi
, Andy Warhol
, Jim Dine
and Ed Ruscha
. Fraser also sold work by René Magritte
, Jean Dubuffet
and Hans Bellmer
In 1966 the Robert Fraser Gallery was prosecuted for staging an exhibition of works by Jim Dine that was described as indecent (but not obscene). The works were removed from the gallery by Scotland Yard and Fraser was charged under a 19th Century law that applied to street beggars. Fraser was fined 20 guineas and legal costs.
Fraser became well known as a trendsetter during the Sixties — Paul McCartney has described him as "one of the most influential people of the London Sixties scene". His London flat and his gallery were the foci of a "jet-set" salon of top pop stars, artists, writers and other celebrities, including members of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, photographerMichael Cooper, designer Christopher Gibbs, Marianne Faithfull, Dennis Hopper (who introduced Fraser to satirist Terry Southern), William Burroughs and Kenneth Anger. Because of this he was given the nickname "Groovy Bob". He is also thought to be an inspiration for the character "Dr. Robert" in the song of the same name on The Beatles album Revolver.
Fraser sponsored the 1966 exhibition by Yoko Ono at the Indica Gallery ran by Barry Miles and John Dunbar, where she first met John Lennon.
Fraser art-directed the famous cover for The Beatles' 1967 LP Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band—he dissuaded the group from using the original design, a psychedelic artwork created by the design collective The Fool, instead suggesting the pop artist, Peter Blake, who created the famous collage cover design.
Fraser also gave Paul McCartney a small painting of an apple by René Magritte which is believed to have been the inspiration for the name and logo of the Beatles' record company,Apple Records. It was also through Fraser that Richard Hamilton was selected to design the poster for the White Album. His gallery also hosted "You Are Here", Lennon's own foray into avant garde art during 1968.
He was a close friend of the Rolling Stones and was present at the infamous party at Keith Richards' house, 'Redlands', which was raided by police
, leading to the subsequent arrests
of Jagger, Richards and Fraser on drug
possession charges. The event is commemorated by the famous 1968 Richard Hamilton
work Swingeing London 67
, a collage of contemporary press clippings about the case. Although Jagger and Richards were acquitted on appeal, Fraser pled guilty on charges of possession of heroin
and was sentenced to six months hard labour.
After his release Fraser's interest in the gallery declined as his heroin addiction grew worse and he closed the business in 1969.