Number five bis Rue de Verneuil is pretty hard to miss. In the middle of Paris’s otherwise staid and well-heeled seventh arrondissement, this expansive townhouse is covered in eye-catching lyrics, tributes and portraits, graffitied in every colour imaginable. You’d think a national icon had lived here or something, and you’d actually be totally right – for this is where the feted (and more than occasionally controversial) French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg spent the last 20 years of his life.
Ever since Gainsbourg died from a heart attack on March 2, 1991, the house has acted as an unofficial shrine to his legacy. For hardcore fans, the allure of this place is no doubt enhanced by the fact that the contents of the house have remained exactly as he left them three decades ago – even his cigarette butts are still in the ashtray.
Although you’ll usually find at least one fan lingering outside (often wielding a spraycan), the house has been completely closed off to the public since Gainsbourg‘s death. But yesterday, to mark 30 years since he died, Serge’s daughter – the actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg – announced that the building will finally open as a museum in October this year.
Charlotte said she hoped the museum would offer a unique insight into the environment where Gainsbourg wrote much of his later work, from ‘Histoire de Melody Nelson’ to ‘Aux Armes et Caetera’.
The main attraction will be the large living area, with its piano, art deco bar and Gainsbourg’s huge collection of sculptures. Of this eccentric room, the singer was said to tell guests: ‘I don’t know what it is: a sitting room, a music room, a brothel, a museum.’
His daughter has bought the garage opposite the house, which will be converted into a ticket office. The living areas on the ground floor will be preserved as they are, and the basement will be turned into an exhibition space. Charlotte said she hoped her father’s former home would become part of the ‘heritage’ of Paris. Ask any of the tens of thousands of fans who make the pilgrimage here every year, and they’ll say it already is.
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