At 5 bis rue de Verneuil, in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, the black gate adjoining a wall covered in graffiti and street art murals will open on Wednesday September 20. Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of Serge and Jane Birkin, will inaugurate that day the private apartment fashioned to her father’s taste where she lived as a child. More than thirty years after the death of Serge Gainsbourg, on March 2, 1991, and two months after that of Jane Birkin, on July 16, 2023, she perpetuates a family story forged at the heart of pop culture.
It is Charlotte’s voice that accompanies the visit – in French or English – via an audio guide given at the entrance. The 130 square meter home with black walls and ceilings is cluttered with objects assembled by the owner with maniacal care and left as is for thirty-two years. Larger, a museum located at 14 rue de Verneuil which exhibits 450 additional pieces, contains a bookstore and a piano-bar café.
At the heart of a well-known legend, the grand Steinway on which the artist composed, packages of Blue Gitanes, gold records, the film poster I love you neither, manuscripts, scores, drafts, many books and photos. Brigitte Bardot, with whom the author of Comic Strip et Harley Davidson thought he was living when he bought this home in 1967, Jane Birkin with whom he moved in 1969 and with whom he lived until his departure in 1980, Charlotte born July 21, 1971, his half-sister Kate Barry (born in 1967 and died in 2013), Bambou, Gainsbourg’s last companion and their son Lulu…
The man reveals himself in the House, the artist in the museum
“Maison Gainsbourg will become a somewhat mythical place in Paris, like the tomb of Jim Morrison, believes Frédéric Quinonero, author of a biography of Jane Birkin. We will find there the soul of Gainsbourg in the nostalgia of a joyful and liberated era, while today the optimist is missing. And, for many, the Gainsbourg-Birkin couple has become legendary. »
Opened in the spring, the 10,000 visit slots available in 2023 are full. The route through the home is carried out at a strict tempo: two people enter every six minutes, never more than ten on the premises, approximately half an hour to go around. The museum offers more freedom and shows collections, a large part of which was presented at the BPI at the Center Pompidou in Paris, from January to September 2023.
The man reveals himself in the house, the artist reveals himself in the museum. The whole thing adds to the overexposure of a family that has become a sort of French equivalent, all things considered, of the British royal family. It has its idolaters who will go to the visit as if on a pilgrimage and its detractors who recall the sulphurous side of Gainsbourg: sexism, excess, provocations. Glamorous and cultured, this den which also contains unusual collections including police badges and handcuffs, depicts the lives of familiar artists, known to everyone.
Charlotte Gainsbourg on the front line
Jane Birkin is eternally the radiant figure in this group portrait. “She is an artist who was seen as frivolous and kind, which made her endearing, before we discovered her ability to give birth to Gainsbourg’s major work. It inspired his best albums, including, at the top, Baby Alone in Babylon, analyzes Frédéric Quinonero. A baby doll who gained respect by proving herself to be a woman in many fights. A singer always on edge, with her voice on the verge of breaking, but strong on stage when by her mere presence, she carried an entire show», explains the critic.
Jane Birkin made Serge Gainsbourg popular, their daughter Charlotte is working towards the eternity of their common work by opening this museum. As much as a subsidiary, its approach is family. She also represents her siblings – Serge’s other children, Natacha, Paul and Lulu, Jane’s other daughters, Kate Barry, Lou Doillon – as well as her partner Yvan Attal and their three children, Ben, Alice and Jo. On the front line, Charlotte Gainsbourg today embodies the legend she puts back on stage.
Visit, read, listen
The Gainsbourg House, reception at 14 rue de Verneuil (Paris 7th), is open every day except Monday, from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (10:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays). “House and Museum” ticket: €16 or €25 (no seats currently); “Museum only” ticket, €6 and €12. Reservation : www.maisongainsbourg.fr
Jane Birkin. On edge by Frédéric Quinonero, will be released on October 12, 2023 by Éd. of the Archipelago (344 p., €21)
Munkey DiariesetAfter writtenthe two volumes of Jane Birkin’s memoirs are available in paperback.
The albums by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin are published by the Mercury-Universal label and those of Charlotte Gainsbourg by Because.
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