27th September 2023

Maison Gainsbourg

The story of a French cultural icon opens to the public. By THE FALL

There are times when someone comes along who is so right for the moment that not only do they become a part of the culture, they become the culture.  With the start of Paris Fashion Week, we’re reminded of great designers like Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.  They both share a trait with others like Muhammed Ali, Prince, Basquiat and Warhol – their presences were so significant that no-one reading those names would need to do anything other than read those names.  Their places in history are already set and, in some cases, taught. Serge Gainsbourg is another of those names.

Serge Gainsbourg © Tony Frank, 1985

Gainsbourg was ravenously creative and the definition of the ‘Parisian artist.’  By the time of his death in 1991, he had written over 500 songs and appeared in over 50 films.  His world had become an ecosystem of artists, musicians and creative thinkers, and he had worked with them all to indulge his creativity until the very end.  Since then his work has gone on to reach legendary status.

Charlotte Gainsbourg wearing Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello © Jean-Baptiste Mondino, 2023

In honour of her father, and to tell the real story of one of France’s most celebrated cultural figures, Charlotte Gainsbourg spent the past 30 years developing her plans and cataloguing all of the memories. Now we have the culmination of those plans with the new Maison Gainsbourg museum in Paris, where we can finally walk through those memories together.  Opened this September, the story is spread across two sites:

Office-library on the first floor at 5 bis rue de Verneuil. © Pierre Terrasson, 1991

5 bis rue de Verneuil is the address of the family home where young Charlotte grew up with her dad and her mother, Jane Birkin, and half-sister Kate Birkin.  Charlotte herself guides visitors through the sagas of her family life via geo-located headphones.  To set the scene, the rooms of the house have been preserved exactly as they were when the singer died.

Living room at 5 bis rue de Verneuil. © Pierre Terrasson, 1991

As though they were snapshots in time, gold records, art, cluttered furniture, Steinway pianos and ashtrays over-flowing with cigarette butts (Gainsbourg, to his detriment, was a famously committed smoker) are all where they were three decades ago.  Matching the drama of his life, each scene in the house is framed by dramatic black walls, standing in stark contrast to the brightly-coloured exterior that’s become a mecca for fans to graffiti their own memories of ‘Gainsbarre’ on the walls.

Facade of 5 bis rue de Verneuil © Alexis Raimbault for Maison Gainsbourg, 2023

Across the street at 14 rue de Verneuil is the gift shop, café bar and a permanent exhibition space that has been designed to mirror the mood and atmosphere of the house.  Screens showing film clips and archive footage, and showcases featuring manuscripts, artworks newspaper clippings, photographs and clothes all tell the wider story of Serge Gainsbourg in eight chronological chapters.

Exhibition view from the permanent collection, “L’Homme à la tête de Chou” by Claude Lalanne (1968) © ADAGP, Paris 2023. © Alexis Raimbault for Maison Gainsbourg, 2023

Singer, songwriter, poet, actor, director, writer, provocateur, agitator, bon vivant – it was felt by some that your opinion mattered more to him than your approval of him.  Now that Maison Gainsbourg has opened its doors, it would be the perfect opportunity to go and form your own.


For more information and tickets for Maison Gainsbourg, click here

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