Audrey Hepburn Shines at Auction, but Celebrity Sales Are Changing

But the two auctions appealed to subtly different audiences.

At Christie’s, the 246-lot Audrey Hepburn “private collection” sale, held on Wednesday by her sons, Luca Dotti and Sean Hepburn Ferrer, consisted mainly of photographs and fashion items. Ms. Hepburn was one of the great global style icons of the 1950s and ’60s, and the live sale (there is also an online-only auction that runs through Wednesday) attracted the most internet bids ever at a Christie’s auction.


More than 1,000 Audrey Hepburn admirers attended an event at Christie’s before a sale of her personal effects on Wednesday.


It raised 4.6 million pounds, or about $6.2 million, seven times the estimate, with 30 percent of lots bought by online bidders. All the lots sold, and thanks to those internet bids the event took a marathon 10 hours.

The sensation of the auction was the £632,750 given for Ms. Hepburn’s original working script for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the 1961 film that defined her career as an actress — and turned her into a style icon.

The price was a salesroom high for any film script offered at auction. Estimated at £60,000 to £90,000, it was bought, suitably enough, by Tiffany & Company, represented in the room by its archivist, Annamarie V. Sandecki.

The “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” section of the auction generated intense bidding, with a further £81,250 offered by a telephone bidder for a black-and-white still from the movie that had been signed by Ms. Hepburn and her co-star, George Peppard. It had been estimated at £2,000 to £3,000.

“She had a classic elegance that’s timeless,” said Julia Thompson, 35, a neurologist who was among the 1,200 or so Hepburn admirers who attended an evening of stylish Christie’s events before the sale. “That’s why people go to Tiffany’s. It was famous because of her.”

As for Ms. Leigh, she was a lover of England and the theater, from an earlier generation of actresses. Her 321-lot collection, offered last Tuesday at Sotheby’s by her three grandsons, featured traditional furnishings and artworks from the homes in London and Buckinghamshire she shared with her second husband, the actor Laurence Olivier.


A 1930s Winston Churchill still-life of roses that Ms. Leigh had owned drew the top price of the auction.


The Vivien Leigh stardust inspired a succession of high prices for antiques that would have been worth little if owned by less celebrated mortals.

Ms. Leigh’s 19th-century gilded brass mechanical pencil, for example, sold for £1,875, against a low estimate of £100. It was one of many lots bought by British fans in the room.

Her collection raised a total of £2.2 million, again with all the lots finding buyers. The double-celebrity allure of a 1930s Winston Churchill still-life of roses that Ms. Leigh had owned inspired at least five bidders to push to £638,750, the top price of the event and more than six times the upper estimate — it went to a telephone bidder. Churchill was an admirer (as was Stalin, according to Sotheby’s catalog) of the actress’s depiction of Emma Hamilton, the lover of Lord Nelson, in the 1941 movie “That Hamilton Woman.” He gave the painting to Ms. Leigh in 1951.

An altogether different, more contemporary notion of celebrity was represented by the Kardashian pop-up at the Saatchi Gallery on Sept. 22 and 23.

Billed by E! Entertainment Television as “two days of unmissable experiences including: ultimate selfie opportunities, makeup master classes, and more,” the inaugural free exhibition reconstructed the staircase of the six-bedroom, eight-bathroom mansion in California owned by Kris Jenner, whose first husband was the lawyer Robert Kardashian. Ms. Jenner has 17.9 million followers on Instagram.

Though no Kardashian family members were present, nor any of their possessions, the event nonetheless attracted 200 visitors an hour, according to the Saatchi Gallery.


A replica at the Saatchi Gallery in London of a staircase in the six-bedroom, eight-bathroom mansion in California owned by Kris Jenner, whose first husband was the lawyer Robert Kardashian.

Dave Bennett/Getty

“In some ways, celebrity hasn’t changed, but the ways of accessing it has, particularly the speed with which you can now access information digitally,” said Ms. Wright of Warwick University.

“In the past, you had to wait for a fan magazine. People used to collect autographs. Now we have selfies.”

Will the thrill of taking selfies with celebrities — or in simulations of their hallways — replace the desire to possess objects that had been part of famous people’s lives? Do today’s digital stars have objects fans want to own?


A miniature wedding cake from the 2005 marriage of Donald J. Trump to Melania Knauss will go on sale at Julien’s Auctions on Nov. 17.

Julien’s Auctions

“They will have stuff, and it can be sold, either in live or online auctions,” said Martin J. Nolan, executive director at Julien’s Auctions, a salesroom in Los Angeles specializing in celebrity memorabilia. “The question is whether celebrities like the Kardashians have the staying power of Audrey Hepburn or Vivien Leigh.”

Julien’s coming “Icons & Idols” sale, on Nov. 17, will include a souvenir miniature wedding cake from the 2005 marriage of Donald J. Trump and Melania Knauss. Thought to be one of about 300 such souvenirs of the day, it is estimated at $1,000 to $2,000.

Is the former reality-TV star and current president of the United States the sort of celebrity who can shine in this specialist market?

“We’re about to find out,” Mr. Nolan said.

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