The exhibition is broken down into four areas—one main gallery and three alcoves.
In the main gallery, 180 portraits illustrate and immerse visitors in four major periods from 1950 to today. Through the lens of major photographers—the eyes of their time—we see the idols of young people, eternal film icons, refined dandies in black and gold jackets, the “jeunes gens modernes”, pop models, romantic-partner duos, protest groups, experimental ensembles, shape-shifting collectives, subversive lyricists, bold musicians, extraordinary performers, innovative DJs, adventurous producers, self-taught artists, virtuosos, trend-setters, and loose cannons—from Paris, Rennes, Lyons, etc., the minimalist and the extravagant, the prolific and the fleeting, the massively popular and those on the fringe.
Non-exhaustive list of photographers: Kate Barry, Belle Journée en Perspective, Guy Bourdin, Antoine Carlier, Richard Dumas, Tony Frank, Claude Gassian, Antoine Giacomoni, William Klein, Jean-Claude Lagrèze, Antoine Le Grand, Youri Lenquette, Sam Levin, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Billy Name, Jean-Marie Périer, Pierre & Gilles, Terry O’Neill, Pierre René-Worms, Richard Schroeder, Jeanloup Sieff, Pierre Terrasson…
In the Vidéodrome, a loop video shows a compilation of thirty audio-visual INA documents and clips (duration 1 hour 40 minutes): Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Sylvie Vartan at the Olympia, “Birthday Party” by Stinky Toys, “Epaule Tatoo” by Étienne Daho, “Tandem” by Vanessa Paradis directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, “Le Monde de Demain” by NTM, “Sexy Boy” by Air…
In the Juke Box Baby alcove, the audio guide allows visitors to listen to their choice of songs on demand from 200 titles selected by Étienne Daho, offering a panorama of French pop with everything from “Que reste-t-il de nos amours?” (1950) by Charles Trenet to “Party in My Pussy” by Catastrophe.
The third alcove, Daholab, is an exclusive exhibition of thirty photos by Étienne Daho of artists from the new music scene (Flavien Berger, la Femme, Lescop, Lou Doillon, Calypso Valois, etc.) and the four godparents of French pop (Elli Medeiros, Philippe Pascal, Patrick Vidal, Dominique A).
I like it pop (“Je l’aime pop”)
I had been taking photos from time to time since adolescence. I picked up my cameras again when the Philharmonie offered me a musical-photography project, with free rein, in the spring of 2014. Since I was dedicating one of the evenings to the artists of new French pop and their godparents, I seized the opportunity to immortalise their photogenic insouciance and capture the mysterious moment when things take off, when something is created. I loved this experience and had the chance to repeat it when the Midi Festival made me honorary president of its 2016 edition.
Several months later, the Philharmonie invited me to exhibit these photos, but since I only had about thirty, together we came up with a more opulent project, in which I would be the narrator and guide to a subjective journey through 70 years of French pop in 200 portraits. It would not be a complete catalogue of French pop, but a personal selection of portraits of artists whose trajectory intersects with my own, who nourished my inspiration and desire to become a musician, who accompanied me on my journey, and on whom I wanted to shine the spotlight.
It was an exciting project, but not without perils. I hesitated for a time, trying to figure out the difficulty of completely removing myself from the pop world I was an integral part of, in order to be able to portray it with enough distance. The other quandary was that with a limited number of photos to cover such a vast period, I would not be able to include all the artists I wanted to, with the risk of leaving some out, and possibly causing them legitimate frustration.
I finally accepted the offer and threw myself into this adventure, with the help of Tristan Bera, Nathalie Noënnec, Franck Vergeade, and the team at the Philharmonie. Through portraits of artists at their break-out moment, when they shine brightest, as well as through clips and emblematic songs, we began unfolding this history of fascinating French pop.
In the choice of the title, “Daho l’aime pop !” (Daho Likes It Pop!), there is a riddle. What does the word “pop” mean? When I was a kid and a teenager, I never paid attention to genres and happily played everything from popular ‘chanson’ to underground music with the same unguilty pleasure. When my career started to take off, in order to avoid the dominant models and sectarian rigidity of rock and ‘variété’, I defined myself as a pop artist. To me, it seemed this gave me access to a free zone that had been cleared by certain artists who came before us. Generally speaking, “purists” condescendingly tended to view pop as basically synonymous with hedonist pleasure, colourful thoughtlessness, and compromising principle for commercial gain. Gainsbourg was said by his peers to have “sold out” when he shattered the codes and composed ‘“yé-yé” songs. Then he went on to be sanctified.
Our predecessors had laid good foundations, born of major intermixing of French chanson and Anglo-Saxon rhythms. Trenet’s swing, Boris Vian’s rock, and Françoise Hardy’s sophisticated English pop allowed the following generations to find themselves in a free zone. Pop today has fluctuating contours and no interest in definitions. It lays bridges between different musical realms, takes down partitions, melds and mixes, reconciles genres, and tears off labels. Freed from the rigidity of codes, a whole new generation is raising high the flag of bold, unfettered, varied, teeming, and free pop music.
This exhibition pays tribute to this beautiful creativity and freedom.
Étienne Daho, born in 1956 in Oran (Algeria), is a singer, songwriter, composer, and producer. He lives and works between Paris and London.
Passionate about music from a very early age, Daho was discovered at the Trans Musicales festival in Rennes. He was part of the Jeunes Gens Modernes movement in France’s post-punk music scene. Aside from his mildly successful first album Mythomane (1981)—produced by Jacno with accompaniment by the musicians from the band Marquis de Sade—all of his other albums La Notte La Notte (1984), Pop Satori (1986), Pour nos vies martiennes (1988), Paris ailleurs (1991), Eden (1996), Corps et armes (2000), Réévolution (2003), L’Invitation (2006), Les Chansons de l’innocence retrouvée (2013), achieved gold and platinum awards. Considered the godfather of French pop, he has done collaborations and productions with a wide variety of artists including Saint Etienne, Francoise Hardy, Dominique A, Jane Birkin, Daniel Darc, Debbie Harry, Jacques Dutronc, Marianne Faithfull, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jacno, Nile Rodgers, Air, William Orbit, Brigitte Fontaine, Alain Bashung, and Jeanne Moreau, with who he sang Jean Genet’s Le Condamné à mort.
He continues to be an important presence in the French pop scene.
Tristan Bera, born in 1984, is an art historian, curator, and artist. He currently lives between Paris and Athens. In France, he has worked on major institutional exhibitions such as Dada (2005) at the Centre Pompidou and Gainsbourg 2008 at the Cité de la musique with the exhibition curators, and more recently on Warhol Underground (2015) and Jardin infini (2017) at Centre Pompidou-Metz as Associate Curator. His work and films have been shown at the Rotterdam, London, Vila do Conde, Lisbon/Estoril, CPH:DOX – Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, as well as at the Cinémathèque in Paris and the Porto film library, and in individual and collective exhibitions at Kunsthalle (Zurich), Haus der Kunst (Munich), Centre Pompidou, K20 Dusseldorf, ICA Winnipeg, Turku Art Museum (Finland), Moscow Biennale 2016, and the galleries Jan Mot (Brussels) and Koyanagi (Tokyo).
With the collaboration of
Franck Vergeade, journalist, former Editor-in-Chief of Magic, revue pop moderne, and the executive producer of Tombés pour Daho (2008) and Jacno Future (2011).
FREAKS is an architecture and set design agency founded in 2010 by three associates: Guillaume Aubry, Yves Pasquet, and Cyril Gauthier.
FREAKS received the “AJAP 2010” award from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the "40 Under 40” award from the European Centre for Architecture in 2016.
The agency’s architecture projects are predominantly within the cultural sphere. FREAKS created set designs for exhibitions at the Cité de l’Architecture et du patrimoine, the Ministry of Culture’s Carrousel du Louvre, the Musée des Arts décoratifs, and La Gaîté Lyrique.