Maison Gainsbourg Now Open in Paris
As soon as I heard Charlotte Gainsbourg was going to open her father, Serge Gainsbourg’s house at 5 bis rue de Verneuil for tours, I immediately put it on my Paris Guide because I knew it would be incredibly popular. It just opened this week and the combined house and museum tickets are already sold out but you can still book tickets to just the separate museum just down the street at 14 rue de Verneuil. Le Gainsbarre, the restaurant inspired by Serge, and the bookstore and gift shop, also at 14 rue de Verneuil, are free to access.
For those not familiar with Serge Gainsbourg, he was a provocative French singer, songwriter, composer, director, and actor. He is best known for his relationship with British singer, model, and actress, Jane Birkin from 1968-1980. He lived at 5 bis rue de Verneuil in the 7th for more than 20 years and after his death from a heart attack in 1991, the interiors were kept exactly as how he left them, including unfiltered Gitanes in the ashtray on the coffee table. “I don’t know if it’s a studio, a museum, a salon or a brothel,” Gainsbourg once said of the space.
If you want more insight into the man, you can stream Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
“Both a place of inspiration and a place of work, having welcomed illustrious guests and hosted a family life within its walls, 5 bis rue de Verneuil is a character in its own right in the story of Serge Gainsbourg.”
“A place of great importance both in his personal life and in the development of his work, the “5 bis” and the objects it contains were kept intact by Charlotte Gainsbourg after her father’s passing over 32 years ago.
Serge Gainsbourg’s house can be visited thanks to an original soundtrack created by Soundwalk Collective in collaboration with Charlotte Gainsbourg. Composed from a collection of unpublished sound archives, this piece superimposes history, archives and sounds collected within the building.”
“In small groups, visitors equipped with geo-located headphones, stroll through the two floors of the house. A thirty minutes immersion during which the public wanders guided by the voice of Charlotte Gainsbourg, who, step by step, retraces the memories and anecdotes linked to her father and her childhood house.”
It was Joseph, Serge Gainsbourg’s father, who discovered this 130-square-meter apartment located a stone’s throw from the Seine and the Pont des Arts for his son. Serge Gainsbourg knew the street well: He used to visit his friend Juliette Gréco, who lived at number 33.
When he visited 5 bis in 1967, he came arm in arm with Brigitte Bardot, with whom he had a brief fling. According to letters written by Joseph, it was the actress who, on their second visit, took it upon herself to send the other potential buyers packing, telling them, “It’s sold, it’s sold.”
“What was sometimes referred to as the hôtel particulier by the press was, in fact, a two-story house with narrow rooms and low ceilings. With the help of the decorator Andrée Higgins, Gainsbourg the Anglophile turned it into the most British of Parisian homes, with double hung windows and white frames reminiscent of Wedgwood porcelain. In the study, he added an English dentist’s chair and, in the bedroom, a mashrabiya screen he’d picked up in a secondhand shop in London.”
For years, Charlotte Gainsbourg tried to figure out what to do with 5 bis rue de Verneuil but it was finally Dominique Dutreix, a property developer and art collector, who helped pull things together with support from Saint Laurent, and suggested 14 rue de Verneuil as a place to welcome visitors.
Charlotte Gainsbourg said opening her childhood home to the public has transformed her: “For a long time, I didn’t want to share my father. Today, I share him.”
Anatole Maggiar and Sébastien Merlet, the authors of Le Gainsbook, along with their team, took 80 days to take stock of the contents of 5 bis rue de Verneuil and two years to digitize all the archives, almost 25,000 references.
Maison Gainsbourg at 14 rue de Verneuil has a permanent collection of more than 450 photographs, objects, manuscripts, clothing, press clippings, and records, recount Gainsbourg’s artistic career and his personal relationships.
The basement of the museum is dedicated to temporary exhibitions that highlight some of the key events in Serge Gainsbourg’s life and career.
Gainsbourg’s white leather Zizi Oxfords, the model of Repetto shoe that became his signature, still bear the marks of his toes.
Conceived as a concept store, Maison Gainsbourg’s book and gift shop develops different collections of objects carefully designed and selected to evoke the rich universe of the artist: records, photographs, iconic objects, clothing, and fashion accessories are displayed alongside a bookshop area.
Le Gainsbarre is Maison Gainsbourg’s café and piano bar, inspired by the early years of Serge Gainsbourg’s musical career, when he worked as a pianist in the cabarets of the city. It is the epicenter of Maison Gainsbourg: a place for conviviality and programming.
Its décor reproduces the atmosphere created by Serge Gainsbourg at 5 bis rue de Verneuil. water lily printed carpeting, white door frames, English-style bow windows and black lacquered mashrabiya folding screens.
For lunch, the Gainsbarre offers a simple, accessible menu for museum visitors and local customers.
Inspired by hotel room-service menus and British tea rooms, it will serve light, gourmet dishes created by Paris Society: Lobster rolls, truffled croque monsieur, crunchy vegetables, foie gras, tarama trio, Cadoret #3 oysters, salmon gravlax, finger sandwiches, and more.
Le Gainsbarre is operated by Paris Society who also run some of the most well known restaurants in Paris.
I managed to get a tickets to the museum at 14 rue de Verneuil for my November trip but not the house since the tours are so small. You can sign up for email alerts for when more tickets are available.