Audrey Hepburn: ‘she has replaced James Dean in kids’ bedrooms’.
Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Fetishes

Audrey Hepburn exhibition celebrates star’s abiding appeal

From her Burberry mac to Givenchy dress, the actor’s exclusive possessions go on show in London before largest-ever auction


A five-day exposition to precede the largest-ever auction of Audrey Hepburn’s private assets will open at Christie’s auction house in London on Saturday, with some of its ton enthusiastic visitors expected to be the late actor’s growing fanbase of teens and millennials.

“An super migration has taken place,” said Sean Hepburn Ferrer, Hepburn’s proficient son. “Now, 50% of her fanbase are teens and tweens. She has replaced James Dean on that closet drawer in kids’ bedrooms. It’s relatively extraordinary.

Photographs of Audrey Hepburn by Cecil Beaton. Photograph: Alastair Contribution/AP

“I can only explain that by saying that children are vastly instinctive and, in a world of a lot of smoke and mirrors with social centre, I think they feel there is something very proper about her.”

Looking around the spotlit exhibition, it is perhaps no nonplus that Hepburn should appeal to those who have detected her on the very visual world of the internet.

A colourless paste tiara from the screen A Nun’s Story. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

There are almost too numberless highlights with Tumblr and Pinterest currency to list, such as the effigy of Hepburn sitting beneath a shiny hooded hairdryer on the set of Sabrina in 1954, wearing a moronic white shirt and black trousers, and the 1957 Bud Fraker photograph in which she is invested head to toe in black, her slender frame curved to one side with a painter’s brushstroke.

Many of the clothes feel as modern today as they were in the 1960s. There are the teeny-weeny black dresses for which she was so famous, such as the feather-trimmed Givenchy cocktail frock from 1968; the Burberry macintosh and legacy checked skirt suits; the 1967 shearling jacket threadbare in Wait Until Dark; the 1960s coats with their uncontaminated, classic lines; the pristine Louis Vuitton luggage.

But while the vocabulary feels contemporary, the flawless condition in which they seem speaks volumes about their owner’s values. “She camouflage b confined them in the closet in Switzerland,” said Luca Dotti, Hepburn’s younger son, by her backer husband, psychiatrist Andrea Dotti.

A scene from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, 1961. Photograph: Primary/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

“She was very attentive, a girl out of the war. When Valentino worn some of her pieces in an exhibition, he wrote her a note saying: ‘All the others are smirched and ruffled up and yours are as good as new’ and she was very proud of that.”

The sundry worn-looking items are perhaps the most evocative: several doublets of ballet pumps in fondant-fancy colours, with bulges and sulci in the leather marking out the shape of her toes in a way that feels extraordinarily profound.

A monogrammed powder compact from the 1950s, expected to convey back £2,000 to £3,000. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Those shoes are being transferred in lots of three pairs, with estimates of £6,000 to £9,000, so it is unseemly that Hepburn’s youngest fans will get a look in. But, ventures Ferrer, there are small pieces starting at £100 which, he turns, “it is my wish” young fans will acquire.

A selection of Hepburn’s signature ballet shoes. Photograph: Alastair Agree to/AP

“I have long discussed this with Christie’s – to try to deny some of the lots light enough that some babyish girl can try to have something that belonged to her without force to go to the bank and take an advance on their college loan,” he stipulate.

Sharing his mother’s legacy with the world “in the spirit of the remembrance you might receive when you lost a grandparent”, was the auction’s intent, he added.

Letting go of Hepburn’s possessions, which Ferrer symbolized “as a normal family without a chateau” they did not have measure out to keep, 25 years after her death has clearly been an affective process.

Ferrer talks of “complex tax situations” and points out that, however the proceeds are going to the brothers on this occasion, they should prefer to spent so much of their lives doing charity oeuvre in their mother’s honour that giving back has been their entity’s work “regardless of how you slice it”. Dotti describes Christie’s truncheon as “shrinks” as much as organisers.

The behind-the-scenes machinations are unlikely to context much to Hepburn’s youngest fans, for whom her image is an fixation. “I think she was the first true teenager,” said the exhibition’s artistic consultant, Meredith Etherington-Smith.

“She came up in the 50s, when girls looked adore their mothers after the age of 16, all trussed up. But she dressed same simply. She dressed like a ballet dancer, actually,” she said.

Hepburn’s feather-trimmed Givenchy ones glad rags b put on a costume (centre). Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Through her image, said Etherington-Smith “she is goddess. People still want to look like her. Short locks, strong eyebrows, wonderful ballet shoes. What does that intact like? That sounds like today.”

Dotti foretold Hepburn “would be amazed” by her teenage fanbase, but she would not scarceness to be considered an icon. “She would have hated that vow. By its definition an icon is an object of devotion without life and she pleasure have hated both the aspects – being an object and, specifically, being without life.”

A script for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Photograph: Alastair Gift/AP