The Barbara exhibition, an extraordinary body of photographs and audiovisual elements, reveals a multi-faceted woman and an artist who developed her remarkable career without ever betraying or repeating herself. It is the story of a free woman.
A tall, elegant brunette with sculpted features, her finely-crafted lyrics drenched in melancholy—this is the image of Barbara that imposes itself, like a chiaroscuro portrait on glazed paper. But this exhibition allows us to look behind the curtain, telling the story of a little girl of Jewish descent who after a devastating childhood decided that performing would be her life, and the stage would be her home. It reveals to us the woman who became the luminous and resonant icon, Barbara.
With its inimitable timbre, her voice draws the visitor into a profound and exhilarating story of creative release and liberation. One learns about her start in Brussels, where even as an unknown and impoverished artist still known as Monique Serf, she maintained her careful elocution and well-rounded demeanour. When the time came to return to Paris, dressed in black with her cropped hair and slim silhouette, Barbara sang for a time in the cabarets. From these bohemian years, the "midnight singer" conserved an irremediable taste for travel, precariousness and freedom. If at first she mainly sang the songs of others, such as Brel and Brassens, soon Barbara began to write her own “petits zinzins”: her hushed musical confidences, a way of giving of herself without being exposed. First tucked behind her piano, and then standing, and then dancing, she metamorphosed before the eyes of the greatest photographers of the day: Robert Doisneau, Jean-Pierre Leloir, Just Jaeckin…
Visitors also discover the ceremonial aspect of her recitals—the magical moment when the curtain opens, and the velvet and lace of stage costumes elevated to the divine. They meet the adventurous woman who dabbled in theatre and film—guided by her intuition and friendships with great artists such as Jacques Brel, Jean-Claude Brialy and Maurice Béjart—and even created a musical for Gérard Depardieu.
As her popularity grew, Barbara became increasingly discrete, withdrawing to the countryside. The exhibition literally becomes a garden where the artist replenishes herself and were creativity is unleashed. At the age of 50, Barbara gave a series of concerts in a 2200-seat circus tent set up at Pantin, the very place where the Philharmonie stands today. The voice has changed, but the communion with the public is stronger than ever. Brought to their feet, the audience only left the hall after a tremendous and lengthy farewell.
Intimate and passionate Barbara
Hand-written notes, letters, drawings and innumerable documents conserved by people in her inner circle, never before publically released, offer insight into Barbaraʼs intimate and passionate side. In her remarkable letters, we discover a little-known facet of her life: her impassioned work with autistic people, prisoners and AIDS patients.
Exhibition’s curator: Clémentine Deroudille
du 13 octobre 2017 au 28 janvier 2018