GRÉCO À LA LOUISIANE - CRASH Magazine
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GRÉCO À LA LOUISIANE

By Charlotte Saliou

‘Gréco à La Louisiane’ 23rd September until 14th October at La Louisiane, 60 Rue de La Seine’

Juliette Gréco passed away on September 23, 2020. One year on from her death, the exhibition «Gréco à La Louisiane» is paying tribute to her. Simultaneously the Place de Saint-Germain-des-Prés is to be rechristened in her name. Two monumental events that serve as the baton passers of the freedoms that Saint-Germain, and Greco, it’s eternal muse, represent.

 

PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGES DUDOGNON

 

In the 1950’s the young Gréco, known as Jujube or Toutoute to those closest to her, lived a carefree life in the heart of Paris’ 6th arrondissement. The neighbourhood, home to Hotel ‘La Louisiane’, was a favourite haunt of the young artists of the era, known to flirt spontaneously and instinctively with their new found, post-war liberties. They were those who knew the freedom; to think, to create, to live, to believe in life and to carve a path of their own, in a world that was demanding and destined to be rebuilt, reimagined. A world that promised opportunity and possibilities to those who would be brave enough to roll up their sleeves and get on with the job. 

These young, creatures of the night were none other than, the now iconic, Juliette Gréco, Annabel Buffet, Boris Vian, Jean-Paul Sartre, Anne-Marie Cazalis, Michelle Vian, and Miles Davis, with whom Juliette had a fleeting but idyllic love affair, the two residing together at La Louisiane.

The serious and sedentary crowd of the old Saint Germain dubbed the group the ‘rats-des-caves’ or ‘cellar rats.’ They could be found dancing the bebop to brass bands, in the basements of the most happening clubs in the neighbourhood; ‘Le Tabou, La Rose Rouge, and Le Boeuf sur le Toit’. Just a stone’s throw from La Louisiane, on Boulevard Saint-Germain the most inspired writers of the times gathered to write and debate at the infamous Cafe de Flore, among them, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Jacques Prévert, to name but a few.

Gréco, muse, icon.. 

PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGES DUDOGNON

From a difficult upbringing, Gréco was able to empathise and ultimately portray emotion through her music in the way only the most sensitive of artists are able to do. This lead to many a collaboration amongst the greatest writers of her generation, all of whom desiring the young Greco to perform their pieces, including, in no particular order, Gérard Jouannest who would go on to become her husband, Gainsbourg, Jules Laforgue, and Raymond Queneau.

The frivolous debauchery of the postwar era of Saint-Germain triggers a certain sense of nostalgia. A feeling of ’everything is possible, everything can change’ that La Louisiane, an independent hotel, honours with this exhibition. It was among the rhythms and beats of the neighbourhood that ideas and revolutions were formed in the minds of the city’s most culture shaping creatives. Jean-Paul Sartre was an early fan of Greco and offered her a room in the hotel where he resided, La Louisiane, and wrote her first music.

Success followed quickly on the heels of the release, and the Gréco phenomenon spread to the trendy streets and clubs of Saint Tropez. Girls everywhere, inspired by her ‘dandy’ style of  slack plants and long loose hair, imitated her look. Shortly after came her 1950 tour of Brazil and that was it; Juliette, the little muse of the cabarets of the 6th, gradually became Gréco, the icon, and was touring the grandest, most beautiful venues of America, Asia and Europe. 

A tribute exhibition to a free woman. 

The exhibition is tribute to Gréco and an ode to the freedom of these creators of the era. On the ground floor, is the work of Irmeli Jung, her official photographer, who followed her throughout her career. Upstairs, objects selected from the archives of Juliette herself, on loan to the exhibit by her daughter Julie-Amour Rossini. In room 10, which Juliette occupied during her stay at La Louisiane are photographs by Georges Dudognon, photographer and reporter in Saint-Germain. This moving exhibition is an invitation for the generation of Gréco to reminisce and a chance for a new generation to forge new connections. No tears at 60 Rue de Seine, but eyes full of light and hope. 

 

PHOTOGRAPH BY IRMELI JUNG

 

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