Pace London is honoured to present A Strong Sweet Smell of Incense, a temporary exhibition inspired by the career, character and work of celebrated art dealer and legendary London figure, Robert Fraser. The exhibition will present a “personal portrait” of Robert Fraser, told in artworks and curated by artist Brian Clarke. A close friend of Fraser and one of several Pace artists who were once represented by the Robert Fraser Gallery – including Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and Jean Dubuffet.
Rather than following an academic approach, Clarke’s selection of works will seek to capture the spirit and energy of his friend, while providing historic context for Fraser’s flamboyance, dynamism and avant-garde gallery programming, after all, the artists on view all once exhibited or had close personal relationships with Fraser.
A bright example: Richard Hamilton immortalised his dealer in his Pop Art masterpiece Swingeing London 67, a screen print of a famous news image in which Fraser is handcuffed to Mick Jagger inside a police van, following their appearance in court on drugs charges. The title refers to the term Swinging London and mocks the judge’s decision on imposing what he literally called a swingeing penalty.
Other highlights in the exhibition include a portrait of Fraser by Basquiat, who the dealer represented in the 1980s.
Pace will also publish a catalogue to accompany the exhition, that will be edited by Clarke and Harriet Vyner, author of Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser (Faber and Faber, 1999).
Robert Fraser aka Groovy Bob
Robert Fraser (August 1937 – 1986) was an iconic London art dealer from the 1960s and beyond. Groovy Bob was a pivotal figure in the London cultural scene of the sixties, being close to the popstars and artists alike. Paul McCartney has referred to Fraser as “one of the most influential people of London's sixties scene”. He also suggested the iconic collage work on the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
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 at 69 Duke Street, Grosvenor Square, London. The gallery interior was designed by Cedric Price.
In the 1960s and the 1980s, the Robert Fraser Gallery was London’s preeminent gallery showing both European and American emerging artists. Fraser opened his gallery in 1962 with an exhibition of works by Jean Dubuffet, and, over the years, fostered close relationships with luminaries of contemporary art.
After leaving London to spend much of the 1970s in India, Fraser reopened in 1983 with an exhibition of works by Brian Clarke from the late 70s and early 80s, some of them on view in A Strong Sweet Smell of Incense. These works sparked the inspiration for Pace’s exhibition. “The art world at the time was really tired. Nothing was really happening. But the feeling was, if anything was going to happen, it would be at 21 Cork Street.”, says Brian Clarke in Groovy Bob.
In the years he operated his gallery, Fraser was a great supporter of Neo-Expressionism, Pop Art and Op Art, championing works by Clive Barker, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Peter Blake, Brian Clarke, Jim Dine, Gilbert and George, Richard Hamilton, Jann Haworth, Ellsworth Kelly, Matta, Claes Oldenburg, Eduardo Paolozzi, Yves Klein, Bridget Riley, Andy Warhol and many others.
His brilliant openings were attended by John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, William Burroughs, Marlon Brando, Marianne Faithfull, Michelangelo Antonioni and almost anyone else in the mainstream of the avant-garde.
A Strong Sweet Smell of Incense - Pace London
February 6 - March 28