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Singer/Songwriter Kristen Lee Sergeant Gives Museumgoers a Soundtrack for Manet

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An “unauthorized" audio guide is shaking things up for art goers at Metropolitan Museum in New York City, centered around an exhibit that features an artist who was no stranger to scandal himself.

Kristen Lee Sergeant, an NYC based singer/songwriter, had been writing songs inspired by Manet's artwork since seeing an exhibit at the Getty years ago. When the Met announced the arrival of the “Manet/Degas" exhibit this fall, she recorded demos of the songs that corresponded to the paintings shown in the exhibit. She swiftly launched a website that pairs her songs and the art, inviting museumgoers to a very unique and personal audio guide experience.

She has been distributing cards on the steps of the Met with a QR code linking to the site and one of Manet's maxims, in French, that translates to “Make the truth and let them talk."

Sergeant's project, “Manet and the Women," brings to life the portrait subjects in a way that is entirely new. She explains: “Manet's women have a self-possession and mystery about them. Song is uniquely able to find its way into these mysteries and bring a new intimacy with the art for the listener."

For example, there is “Nana," a painting of an infamous fictional courtesan, depicted half dressed and primping. Sergeant voices her as as a woman making art of herself:

“Paint a face that moves in the glass Curl the hair pout the lip fringe the lash It's a portrait that someone's buying Say that's not art—and you'd be lying."


Or, singing from the perspective of the singer in the back of a bustling nightlife scene in “The Café-Concert:"

“In the back find me singing Songs of love loss and laughter ringing Filling ears the way beers fill their throats Seems nobody's listening, top hats glistening Look around, sure they've found more fun than me I'd make that bet—three more songs this set Ennui."


The audio guide can be accessed here

“Manet/Degas" is on view at the Met through January 7, 2024.

About Kristen Lee Sergeant

Kristen Lee Sergeant is a singer and songwriter based in New York City who has been praised for her “smart lyrics" and “gorgeous legit vocals" by DownBeat Magazine, and for “a unique feeling of musical exploration" in her live performances by BroadwayWorld. Her music is influenced by her jazz pedigree, background in theater and commitment to storytelling. She's been featured at Joe's Pub, Birdland, Minton's and nationwide. Kristen has released four studio albums, the most recent being Holidays co-led with Grammy Award winner Ted Nash, to be released November 24, 2023.

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