I know, it’s January 17 already, but I first wanted to wish you a very happy new year 2020! Imagine; the 20s! That’s pretty cool, no? And this will be my first blog post of the year, a way to start it in beauty.
For my discussion today, we have to go back in time a little, to early January when I was in Amsterdam as part of a winter vacations trip I spent with my cousin and two friends. The trip started in late December in Bad Aussee, Austria and led us to Salzburg, Munich, and then Amsterdam.
So, one day, we were walking in the city (I think it was on the first day after our arrival) and, as we were passing by the Beurs van Berlage, my cousin caught my attention on a poster announcing an exhibition dedicated to Audrey Hepburn entitled Intimate Audrey! She knows that I’m a fan of her, so I’m glad she thought of me that way! That day, we already had plans, but I quickly established the desire to go and visit it. So, the following day, my cousin had to leave in the morning and I decided to start the day by going to the exhibition while my two friends went out for breakfast.
I had the idea, before going to the exhibition, to establish a link between Audrey Hepburn and an Amsterdam trip. There is a connection and an important one to make between Audrey Hepburn and the Netherlands. While Audrey was born in Belgium, she also lived a part of her childhood in the Netherlands (it’s in Amsterdam that she studied ballet with Sonia Gaskell), and her mother, Baroness Ella Van Heemstra, was Dutch. So, Audrey Hepburn’s Dutch roots made it totally logical for the exhibition to be presented in Amsterdam. Precision: Intimate Audrey was launched in Brussell, Belgium, Audrey Hepburn’s hometown (Audrey was more precisely born in Ixelles, in the suburbs of Brussell).
Audrey’s eldest son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, created this exhibition on the occasion of what would have been her mother’s 90th birthday (Audrey was born in 1929). A beautiful gesture from him! This is not the first time Sean brings us to celebrate the memory of his mother, he indeed did it when he published the book Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit, published in 1999 (marking what would have been her 70th birthday). As it is indicated on the exhibition’s official website, the idea was to ” [focus] entirely on the woman – not the icon.” (1) And this is a key element to take into consideration while you make your visit. Interestingly, and I didn’t know this until today, the website also informs us that the profits for this exhibition go to EURORDIS (European Organisation for Rare Diseases). (2) So, it’s well-spent money for more than one good reason.
So, here I went, on that late morning of January 5th, to Beurs van Berlage, for my visit. First of all, I have to say that the lady at the ticket office was super nice so my visit already started in a good way. As soon as we enter the exhibition’s entrance hall, we are submerged in an Audrey Hepburn environment with a decor including the Roman Holiday Vespa. After I hanged out my coat, a gentleman from the museum came to me to explain what the exhibition was about (it’s more than an exhibition “About Audrey Hepburn”) and, on the way, let me know that photos aren’t allowed (except in that very room where we were standing). Well, I was hoping to take a few ones for this article but, out of respect, I’ve decided not to be a rule-breaker… Not this time.
In my opinion, this exhibition is made for people who have a knowledge of who Audrey Hepburn was and who wish to explore a different facet of her story. Indeed, one will notice that this is not the type of exhibition with tons of explicative text. You kind of have to create the story yourself through what you see and according to the environment in which you are immersed. The only time where this created problems for me was when there was so some objects that looked intriguing, but there wasn’t even a little note just to identify what it was. Yes, in most cases, it’s easy to guess, and in most cases, it is explained, but I thought it was lacking on a few occasions. Anyway, this doesn’t make it a bad exhibition, not at all. As a matter of fact, it enforces the concept of intimacy that you have with Audrey Hepburn through the visit. It is just as if you were looking into a family album. Is everything explained in a family album unless someone sits with you and tell you the story of each photo? Not necessarily. Yes, that exhibition makes you see Audrey more as a friend than as a movie star and a movie icon.
The exhibition is well organized, generally in chronological order, with different rooms dedicated to different aspects of her life (her childhood, stage career, Sean, her awards, her work with the UNICEF., etc.), and the setting is beautifully presented. For example, a room dedicated to her house in Switzerland and her garden is decorated with a beautiful tree with white flowers. Yes, it is a false three and false flowers, but, nevertheless, it is very pretty.
What I might have liked the most about this exhibition was the “never seen before” aspect. Intimate Audrey is more than about showing film costumes, it is about showing the life of Audrey, the woman. You can admire tons of rare photos of Audrey with her friends and family, Sean’s christening dress, Audrey’s ballet shoes, her absolutely lovely wedding dress (from her first wedding with actor Mel Ferrer- Sean’s father), etc. But, overall, what I liked the most about this exhibition was the display of those little paintings and drawings that Audrey made when she was a young girl. Those showcase another talent from this great lady and are beautifully done. By the way, if I remember correctly, a fellow blogger wrote a nice article about Audrey’s artistic talent. However, I can’t remember who it was, but as soon as I do, I will link it to this article!
The exhibition also includes various videos that will emerge you more into Audrey’s world and who she was according to herself and her peers.
So, what you can learn from Intimate Audrey really depends on your current knowledge on Audrey Hepburn. If you know her only by name, this exhibition might give you a brief preview of her life (it’s much more a visual than a textual exhibition) and hopefully will make you want to know more about her. Or, if like me you are a fan and already know a lot about her, well, Intimate Audrey will be a beautiful and appreciated complement to your knowledge, something you shouldn’t miss if you happen to be in Amsterdam!
If you wish to know more about Intimate Audrey (venues, hours, prices, etc.), I invite you to check the official website.
(1) Intimate Audrey. “About.” Accessed January 17, 2020. https://www.intimateaudrey.org/.