Audrey Hepburn at The National Portrait Gallery

Audrey Hepburn Style Icon | Miranda's Notebook

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you’ll know how much I’ve been looking forward to the Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon exhibition, which opened on July 2nd at The National Portrait Gallery. I managed to make it to the exhibition yesterday afternoon, and as I walked through the entrance to the show, I fully anticipated staying for hours, revelling in the treat that is essentially a 3D Audrey-themed Pinterest board.

Audrey Hepburn Style Icon | Miranda's NotebookAudrey Hepburn Style Icon | Miranda's NotebookAudrey Hepburn Style Icon | Miranda's Notebook

I have to admit, though, that I had very mixed feelings about this exhibition, and unfortunately the reigning emotion was definitely disappointment. Perhaps because I was so looking forward to it, I’d built up too high an expectation. Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon takes up only 3 small rooms. I couldn’t believe it when I walked into the last room – was that really it? I doubled back and walked through the exhibition again, looking hopefully for another room I’d missed. But no: I’d seen it all. Trying not to feel too disappointed, I decided to give the exhibition another chance: I walked through it again, carefully studying all the photographs, admiring many I’d missed in my first quick and excited walk around.

The photographs were, of course, lovely. I had, however, already seen the majority of them several times over. Now, I know I’m a bit of an Audrey fanatic (she is my number one style icon, after all, and I myself have a whole Pinterest board devoted to her gamine grace), so I’ve probably seen more photographs of her than the average person, but I’d been hoping that the exhibition would have a much larger range of less well known, more personal photographs. I did enjoy seeing some of the very young Audrey that aren’t widely known, and it was fascinating to observe the development of her iconic image (the rooms are arranged chronologically).

Audrey Hepburn Style Icon | Miranda's Notebook Audrey Hepburn Style Icon | Miranda's Notebook Audrey Hepburn Style Icon | Miranda's Notebook

In general, though, I was thankful that I had purchased membership of the National Portrait Gallery in time to see the John Singer Sargent exhibition (which was brilliant) as well, as I think I would have felt rather ripped off if I’d bought it only as a means to see the Audrey exhibition several times. If you’re planning to see the exhibition, I recommend buying advance tickets, as when I went they had completely sold out of tickets for the day, and people were signing up for membership just for the chance to get in (and, in my opinion, this exhibition alone isn’t really worth the cost of full membership!).

I would also issue a warning that, if you haven’t seen the exhibition yet, then do try your best to go at a time that is likely to be less crowded (e.g. in the week if possible, or first thing in the morning on the weekend). As the exhibition rooms are small, and for the most part the photographs aren’t large either, I think it would become exceedingly difficult to see them properly if the rooms were any more crowded than when I went.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the exhibition – have any of you been yet? What did you think of it?

Images via: National Portrait Gallery postcards and website.

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  • It’s a shame you felt a little ripped off. I saw it last week as part of a deal with the Covent Garden Hotel, it included a 2-course brunch with prosecco, a viewing of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and entrance to the exhibition for Β£45. I felt like this was a really good deal as it gave me a whole day out – tbh I didn’t even notice that the exhibition was so small, I really enjoyed it πŸ™‚

    Lots of love,

    • I’m sure a nice meal and a film viewing alongside the exhibition would add a lot to the experience, and that does sound a good deal. The exhibition on its own definitely left me rather underwhelmed though. xxx

  • Claire

    I’m sorry that you were disappointed, Miranda, especially when you were so looking forward to it. I have tickets to see it tomorrow afternoon with friends.

  • Claire

    I’m sorry that you were disappointed, Miranda, especially when you were so looking forward to it. I have tickets to see it tomorrow afternoon with friends.

    • I was sorry too Claire! It was still an enjoyable experience – it just didn’t quite live up to my (too high) expectations. xxx

  • Wells you did recently come off of the McQueen exhibit, which is really hard to compete with!!! But just three rooms? Ugh. They really could have done better than that!

    • Ha, yes so true – very hard to compete with some of the amazing exhibitions that have been on lately, McQueen included! But yes I wish there had been a little more. xxx

  • Oh no, I was thinking how much I’d like to see this but it doesn’t seem worth a special trip! Such a shame, you’d think it would be bigger.

    Tara x

    • I definitely was expecting a lot more, I suppose because of all the hype. I still enjoyed it and would recommend seeing it, but not sure it would be worth a special trip. xxx

  • Lizzie

    I’m so disappointed that you’re disappointed! But I think you’re right to recognise the disadvantage of being a superfan – it’s hard to find something new πŸ™
    You’ll have to cheer yourself up by watching an Audrey film – which is your favourite?

    • Well, that’s true – being a superfan does definitely have its disadvantages!! I’ve still got a postcard to send you though Lizzie πŸ™‚ Love the idea of consoling myself with some Audrey film viewing – Roman Holiday is my favourite, with Sabrina running a close second. Which is your favourite? xxx

      • Lizzie

        I have to admit to a huge soft spot for Charade, but that might be because I like looking at Cary Grant πŸ˜‰

  • I don’t have membership, so I’m not sure a visit is actually worthwhile. I love Hepburn so I’m afraid that I’d also feel disappointed! x

    • I’d say it’s still worth the ticket price, but definitely not worth getting the membership just for this exhibition alone! xxx

  • Divine photographs – like walking through the exhibition all by myself and with great close-up detail! Thanks M xxx

  • as an arts fundraiser, I have to say: HOORAY FOR MEMBERSHIPS! but I get your frustration – I saw a show at the NPG a few years ago that was great, but much smaller than I’d expected for the hype. (can’t remember what it was now!) I always feel bad for the Portrait Gallery though because it’s so in the National Gallery’s shadow :/

    • I’m a big fan of memberships too, and I belong to many of the London museums / galleries. Usually I’d say that they are great value for money too, but in this instance I wouldn’t recommend getting membership just to get in to the Hepburn exhibition, as I don’t think it’s one I’d want to revisit several times over. It’s definitely worth the ticket price though! xxx

  • sunday taylor

    I love Audrey Hepburn also and wish I had been able to see that exhibition. Though I think I would have been slightly disappointed from what you’ve described. But, wasn’t the John Singer Sargent exhibition fabulous! I always visit the National Portrait Gallery when I am in London. It is one of my very favorite places.
    xx Sunday

    • Oh yes the John Singer Sargent was amazing – I so enjoyed it! The National Portrait Gallery is a favourite place of mine as well. xxx

  • Kristina Collins

    I absolutely loved the John Singer Sargent exhibition–still wishing I’d managed a second visit! But now thinking I’ll give this one a miss. Like you, I’ve probably seen quite a few of the photographs already–what a shame… xx

    • I think you probably would have. It is a shame! Oh well, I’ll just have to content myself with adding more to my Pinterest board πŸ˜€ xxx