A photo of French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg burning a bank note during a 1984 television broadcast was the star lot of an auction Sunday of selected images from AFP's photo archives dating back decades. Prints of daily life across five decades but also of war, sport and stars from the glitzy worlds of music, cinema, fashion and art also went under the hammer at a Parisian events space and online.
1973’s Vu de l’extérieur: home to one of Serge Gainsbourg’s biggest hits (“Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais”), along with a host of lesser known gems. In true Gainsbourgian form, a large swath of the album’s lyrics are equally lascivious and ridiculous, penned by the bon vivant in a fit of inspiration shortly after suffering his first heart attack at age 45. In contrast to his previous LP, the heavily orchestrated Histoire de Melody Nelson, this is a stripped down affair, its ten tracks arranged by Gainsbourg and produced by Peter Olliff.
Serge Gainsbourg died 30 years ago this year, aged 62. Jane Birkin, his longtime muse and partner, recalls that, as with John. F. Kennedy, people remembered where they were when he died. In Paris, ‘everything stopped’, and the city was oddly quiet. Crowds gathered around his home, held a vigil, and sang ‘La Javanaise’. But things were different in the non-French speaking world: amid the ending of the Gulf War and the imminent collapse of the USSR, people had bigger things to think about.
Many people think of Paris as the center of style. As the birthplace of pretty much every pioneering fashion house, it’s understandable that this would be the case. But when you think about the history of menswear (specifically, from a tailoring point of view), the city of light isn’t necessarily the first place to spring to mind. England caters to the colder seasons through bespoke Savile Row suits, Italy the warmer weather through lighter, regionally sourced ensembles. So where does Paris sit? Somewhere smack dab in the middle of both, pulling textural ingredients from its neighboring countries and wearing them in a manner that’s filled with elegance, sophistication and an insouciant sense of charm. The Frenchman who most displayed this in action? Serge Gainsbourg.
All products featured on GQ are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Nothing in the world seems certain—and this ambivalent mood includes shoes. Last spring, a clutch of mega menswear designers, including Dries Van Noten and Jil Sander, put out ballet flats, while Jonathan Anderson continues to reinvent the crunchy clog into something sublime. Some observers have predicted that this signals the demise of the sneaker, while others have pointed to the ascendance of the loafer. But in truth, it seems the world is at a shoe impasse. Anything goes, and yet nothing quite looks right.
The event at the Institut Français will take place online next month. The 30th anniversary of Serge Gainsbourg's death will be marked by a live event at the Institut Français in London next month. The online conversation, taking place at 7pm on March 2, will take place between regular tQ...