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Richard Hamilton at Pallant House Gallery maps the career of a maverick

May 16, 2021

An exhibition of the pop artist’s work shows how he mixed frivolous with serious and captured the culture of an era Richard Hamilton’s Swingeing London ’67, 1968 May 16, 2021 7:00 am The two men in the back of the police car, arriving at Chichester magistrates’ court, react differently to the banks of cameras alongside. The nearest, in green, hides his face – one of the most famous faces of the Sixties, as it still is today. Handcuffed to the man in brown beside him, his shielding action forces up the other’s arm but the other face looks out, as if fascinated to find itself unusually visible. The uncharacteristically shy man is Mick Jagger . His companion in alleged crime is the art dealer Robert Fraser. And the press photographs of their arrival to be tried on drugs charges in June 1967 resonate to this day. That they do so is thanks in large measure to the pop artist Richard Hamilton , one of the fashionable, but also most important, artists whom Fraser exhibited in his Mayfair gallery. Hamilton was not present at the West Sussex farmhouse where, on that fateful day, there was enough sex, drugs and rock’n’roll to satisfy a tabloid press greedy for sensation. But he was at the forefront of the pop art scene which overlapped effortlessly with the music world. Bands such as The Rolling Stones or The Beatles suddenly had unimaginable wealth to spend on art, and Fraser was the man to supply their young appetites. (He once popped a Magritte on Paul McCartney’s table while the singer-songwriter was busy outside with a film crew. The painting depicted the apple which became the band’s business venture logo.) Your guide to what to watch next - no spoilers, we promise Email address is invalid Read More The beguiling mix of frivolous and seriousness that characterises Hamilton’s work is illustrated in an exhibition at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester . The historic legal proceedings that took place a few metres down the road add to the piquancy of works that span the long career of a maverick turned elder statesman of art. Hamilton’s training was suitably unconventional. Expelled from the Royal Academy Schools where he was “not profiting by the instruction given in the painting school”, he did profit from reading his way through the library of the Royal Engineers in which he served for 18 months, and from a deep knowledge of James Joyce’s Ulysses. He emulated the writer’s virtuosic use of numerous writing styles in one volume with his own experiments in collage and combination of different techniques in a single work. Hers is a Lush Situation, 1958 by Richard Hamilton For his admirers this eclecticism is probably most pronounced in the 1956 work Just What is it That Makes Today’s Homes so Different, so Appealing?. With its lounging voluptuous housewife, muscle man and modern appliances, it summed up the consumerism and ephemeral nature of a time when post-war austerity was finally easing and, with a little help from mass production, a degree of luxury was within the reach of many. When Hamilton revisited the scene in 1992, his original checklist more or less held: “Man/ Woman/ History/ Food/ Newspapers/ TV/ Telephone/ Comics/ Cars/ Domestic Appliances/ Space/ Information”, he ticked off. But the woman has got off the sofa and is hard at work as a crossing lady. The muscle man is desk-bound in a new, computerised world. Their décor includes an update of Robert Indiana’s four-square LOVE design, spelling out Aids. In the same year as the original Just What is it…, Hamilton was at the centre of the influential This Is Tomorrow show at the Whitechapel Gallery in London . The exhibition arranged its 38 participating artists into 12 groups, each collaborating on a single artwork in a new spirit of democracy and collaboration intended to counter the tradition of the lone, star artist. Others taking part were Eduardo Paolozzi, Erno Goldfinger, William Turnbull and Victor Passmore. The breakthrough exhibition did not, however, redress the sexist bias in art, featuring as it did only four women alongside 34 men. Those men also included the architect Colin St John Wilson, the designer of Pallant House Gallery’s extension. His private collection of work by his contemporaries underpins the gallery’s own collection today, and all the works in the Richard Hamilton show are from Pallant House’s own holding. Richard Hamilton (Photo: Nicholas Sinclair) One of several women undoubtedly behind the scenes of the Whitechapel show was Terry O’Reilly, whom Hamilton had met at EMI and married 10 years earlier. She was, he said “a dab hand with a saw, as well as an anonymous contributor at every level of the project”. But O’Reilly died in a car accident in 1962. It was partly grief that propelled Hamilton the following year to the US, where he developed, with the French-born surrealist Marcel Duchamp, a deep friendship and professional collaboration that lasted until the older artist’s own death in 1968. Hamilton’s interest in Duchamp inspired a scaled-up version of ­Duchamp’s optically teasing 1935 spinning discs series entitled Rotorelief. In 1966 the two artists worked together on a recreation of Duchamp’s masterwork known as “The Large Glass” – full title, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors Even (1915-23). Read More This wordless story told by curious figures with optical devices formed the centre point of a major Duchamp retrospective at the Tate , where the replica still resides. The two artists jointly signed smaller studies for “The Large Glass”, produced in editions. The Tate show came at the end of Hamilton’s 12 years teaching in the art department of the University of Durham. This very go-ahead school did its own thing, encouraging students – including the Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry – to immerse themselves in the local music scene, and rescuing, in its then derelict state near Windermere, the important Merz Barn Wall by the German emigré Karl Schwitters, later restored and now star of the university’s own Hatton Gallery. Hamilton’s Just What is it that Makes Today’s Homes so Different?, 1992 How cool to have a teacher like Hamilton, creator of Hers is a Lush Situation (1958), which subverts art history’s idea of a female portrait and laughs at the aspirational fantasies of the car industry. Sophia Loren’s lips hover over the headlights and chassis of a flashy motor, against a New York skyline. ­ Hamilton took his title and inspiration from a review of a new Buick. In bending the commercial brand towards fine art – three years before Andy Warhol’s first Coca-Cola ­bottle – he was, as often, foresighted. Jagger and Fraser were in the car pulling up to Chichester magistrates’ court. But it was Richard Hamilton who was in the driving seat of pop art, as this exhibition enjoyably shows.

Robert Fraser Investments

1 Investments

Robert Fraser has made 1 investments. Their latest investment was in Densify as part of their Seed on November 11, 2005.

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Robert Fraser Investments Activity

investments chart

Date

Round

Company

Amount

New?

Co-Investors

Sources

11/14/2005

Seed

Densify

Yes

Date

11/14/2005

Round

Seed

Company

Densify

Amount

New?

Yes

Co-Investors

Sources

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