Twenty Flight Rock
The Summer Rock Roundup
Groovy BobThe Life and Times of Robert Fraser
by Harriet Vyner
Faber and Faber, 336 pp., $25
A staggering cast of characters tells the story in this Edie-like biography: Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Anita Pallenberg, Kenneth Anger to name a few, talking about each other and the times in which they lived, but most importantly talking about Robert Fraser.
Fraser's interest in modern art revealed itself early, and by the time he was through at Eton, he knew he wanted to be an art dealer. In 1962, he opened the Robert Fraser Gallery, and was a smashing success. He imported Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns to Europe for the first time, and created stars within the British art world. Groovy Bob was at the very epicenter of Swinging London's youthquake, the point at which all things met, traversing between the rival factions of the Beatles and the Stones. He was a principle figure in the legendary Redlands drug raid along with Mick and Keith, but Robert was the one who did the time for possession of heroin. He had just discovered the drug -- an avid pot smoker, he also introduced cocaine to the fashionable London crowd -- but heroin was the beginning of the end. His financial difficulties escalated to the point that he owed money to everyone -- especially his struggling artists. The gallery closed in 1969 as Fraser's drug-addled visions and journeys failed to pay the rent. He still had the money to pay the rentboys but his life was spiraling into debt and oblivion. After a short-lived attempt to revive his career as an art dealer, he died of AIDS in 1986.
For a brief magic moment in the Sixties, Pop Art ruled the world. It influenced everything around it; it was a time when the combination of music, fashion, art, and drugs conspired to create an entirely new take on reality and Fraser was its auteur. And never since has the general public been so captivated with art.