Serge Gainsbourg's fag ends and nail clippers go under the hammer

More than two decades after his death, the cult of controversial Gallic singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg is alive and kicking.

Flushed with the success of selling the artist's "handwritten" shopping lists last year for €7,700 (£6,540), a French auction house is offering Gainsbourg fans the chance to snap up more "artefacts" from their late hero's daily life.

On 31 October 31, nearly 100 items will come under the hammer at the Talma auction house in Nantes. Lot 33consists of four cigarette butts from Gitanes smoked by Serge Gainsbourg in an audio cassette case and a box of matches (guide price €500-€700), while lot 84 is nail clippers that once belonged to the great man (guide price: €50-€80).

Other lots include photographs, books and even a telegram to his wife, the British actress Jane Birkin, with whom he recorded the heavy-breathing number one hit, Je t'aime … moi non plus.

Some of the items, including lot 77 – a pair of battered grey shoes ("one of the last pairs worn by Gainsbourg") – were collected by a former butler to the singer who died in 1991 aged 62.

To many French people, Gainsbourg was the ultimate cultural icon, a Renaissance man who could not only paint, draw, sing, compose, direct and act but was a legendary lover to boot.

To others, shocked by his foulmouthed misogynist rants on live television, and the spectacle of him burning a 500-franc note – then one-sixth of the net monthly wage – for the cameras, he was a drink-fuelled, ranting Jekyll and Hyde.

David Richard, a spokesman for the Talma auction house, said it was hard to put a price on some of the items.

"Gainsbourg was very controversial during his life and the myth has continued since his death," Richard said. "When we sold his shopping lists last year we realised there was a great interest in items from his everyday life.

"Quite a lot of the bidders were women and they were prepared to go quite far but it's always difficult to know how much people are prepared to pay for these things."

Richard says would-be bidders can rest assured that while the cigarette ends – complete with ash – look like any other cigarette ends, they were indeed touched by Gainsbourg's lips.

"The seller saw Gainsbourg smoke them in front of him so he can vouch that they were his."

Powered by article was written by Kim Willsher in Paris, for on Friday 11th October 2013 14.29 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Steven Depolo