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'Swingeing London': Art, Drugs and Wormwood Scrubs

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Harriet Vyner gives a snapshot of 1967: the age of Sergeant Pepper, peace protests and birth control. But beneath the excitement lay a conflict between a new youth culture and the old establishment. Richard Hamilton's Swingeing London 67 depicts an iconic moment in the backlash against popular culture and its figureheads. In the work's many versions, the art dealer Robert Fraser is shown handcuffed in the back of a police car next to the Rolling Stones' frontman, Mick Jagger. Vyner tells the story of how a star-studded, drug-fueled party sent an art-world VIP to Wormwood Scrubs prison and asks what else Hamilton's depiction of this incident has to say about the atmosphere of the times.

This film is part of Brian Clarke's curated series, 'Cruising Culture'. He described the film as follows:

"Harriet Vyner's portrait of gallerist Robert Fraser and of the period is as good as it actually gets. I knew Robert Fraser very well. He was a big part of my life, as he was of Harriet's, and this is an entirely accurate and intelligent portrait of Robert and his times, in that first, Sixties gallery period. It really sums it up well. And you get that sense of excitement coming off it, like the art world before it got cynical and life was still a groove. The architecture of this film is really consistent with the way the period was: the music, the cuts. It's a firework display. If you want to know about Robert this is a great place to start."

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Harriet Vyner lives between Yorkshire and London. She is the author of Groovy Bob, the life and times of Robert Fraser (1999), Among Ruins (2006), and the co-author of Jools Holland's autobiography, Barefaced Lies and Boogie-Woogie Boasts (2007). She co-curated the exhibition 'A Strong Sweet Smell of Incense: A Portrait of Robert Fraser' at Pace London in 2015. She is currently co-curating a Francis Bacon exhibition with artist Brian Clarke, which will open at the Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, in 2019.

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